Samsung’s $249 Galaxy Tab 2 7.0 To Make U.S. Debut On April 22, We Go Hands-On


Samsung teased the masses this past February when they revealed that one of their first Ice Cream Sandwich-powered tablets would be the Galaxy Tab 2 7.0, a decidedly mid-range device that seemed lacking in the style department. At the time, Samsung made it known that the Tab would arrive in the U.K. Before trickling down to the rest of the world, a plan that didn’t really pan out.

These days, Samsung has been a bit more forthcoming with details for the U.S. market, and the company has just recently given me what I’ve been waiting for: a price and a release date. The Galaxy Tab 2 7.0 will officially launch in the United States on April 22 with a pretty enticing $249 price tag attached to it.

I’ll be posting a more comprehensive review of the Galaxy Tab 2 7.0 after I’ve gotten the chance to play with it for more than a day, but here are a few of a my first impressions.

Despite having a slim plastic body, the Galaxy Tab 2 has a surprisingly solid feel to it. That’s not to say it’s particularly heavy — in fact, at 12.2 ounces it’s a shade lighter than Amazon’s Kindle Fire, which makes it very comfortable to hold with one hand. It’s also about as thick as the Kindle Fire, a fact that’s obscured rather well thanks to the device’s nicely-tapered edges. While I appreciate the Galaxy Tab’s build quality, there isn’t much to write home about when it comes to physical aesthetics. There’s no sex appeal to be found here, just lots of gray plastic and a few Samsung logos.

As I noted when Samsung first announced this little guy, the Galaxy Tab 2 7.0 doesn’t have the most impressive spec sheet you’ve ever seen. Nestled inside the Tab’s slim frame (and behind the 7-inch 1024 x 600 display) is a 1GHz dual-core TI OMAP 4430 processor, 1GB of RAM, the usual slew of WiFi and Bluetooth radios, an IR blaster, and 8GB of internal storage. If that’s just not enough space for you to work with, there’s also a microSD card slot embedded in the device’s left edge capable of taking up to 32GB of additional storage.

Despite being outflanked by its cousin the Galaxy Tab 7.0 Plus in terms of hardware, this little guy held up fairly well to my (admittedly unscientific) tests. It handled an extended bout of Minecraft without any major issues, and more graphically intensive games like Shadowgun were completely playable, if a bit jerky at times. Navigating through the device’s menus was generally nice and smooth, even after I loaded up my homescreens with a few of Samsung’s love-them-or-hate-them TouchWiz widgets.

That said, I still ran into a few hiccups during my day of testing — I would occasionally be booted back to the homescreen while scrolling through my list of apps, and the keyboard would mysteriously disappear while I was trying to set up the Peel Smart Remote app for a little veg-out session on the couch.

Tablets don’t always have the best luck when it comes to the cameras they’re graced with, and the 7-inch GalTab 2 doesn’t manage to buck the trend. It sports a 3-megapixel rear-facing camera, and a smaller VGA sensor right above its display, neither of which managed to blow me away. While I was in New York City meeting with Samsung to pick up the demo unit, I snapped this image in the Theatre District — it’s downright lousy, though it probably goes without saying that a tablet shouldn’t be your primary shooter.

It goes without saying that the Galaxy Tab 2 7.0 is no iPad killer (not that it’s meant to be), but its price tag and performance mean it could definitely give the Kindle Fire some competition for that number 2 spot. Sure, at $249, it isn’t quite as cheap as the Fire, but the difference in performance between the two is definitely noticeable, and barring any weird issues that could pop up over the next few days, I’d much rather own one of these.

Notion Ink Scraps High-Resolution Screen For Next Tablet


We’ve always been interested in the Notion Ink project, which has always striven to be a true alternative to both the iPad and Android masses. Last time, it was through both a Pixel Qi screen and an interesting custom interface, but delays and yield problems more or less buried it and competitors piled up.

The sequel to Notion Ink’s Adam was originally going to have a 10″ screen running at 1920×1200. A post on the company’s development blog has admitted that this is not likely to happen.

What would replace it in the new model isn’t said, though a more common 1280×800 screen or thereabouts would be a likely candidate. They’re common, efficient, and cheap, and the high-resolution panel they were looking at before was none of those.

It says something about the trials of developing hardware as a small company. Someone like Apple has the clout to make the components and materials for something like the new iPad cheap enough to buy in bulk. But if you’re only shipping, say, 10,000 units, the cost per unit starts looking way different.

He notes also that such a high-resolution screen, while it has its benefits, is not really beneficial in the Android ecosystem now. Apple’s high-res screen is being adopted at large by developers (or else), but Android is a more complicated beast and the display engine isn’t locked down quite so tightly.

On that front, Notion Ink’s Shravan says that their next blog post will go over the new Adam’s “Visual Enhancement Engine,” probably a serious makeover of stock Android, and a “Display Power Optimizer,” which is probably what it sounds like. Once they lock down the hardware specs, they have the advantage of knowing what they’re developing for, and final software work can begin.

It may not ever ship as many units as an iPad or Kindle Fire, but the David vs. Goliaths story continues to be worth following.

[via Engadget]

Best Buy CEO Brian Dunn Just Resigned


Best Buy’s Brian Dunn just stepped down as the retailer’s CEO and director effective immediately. This comes just days after Best Buy missed Wall Street’s estimates last quarter and the retailer announced plans to shutter 50 large stores and open smaller, likely more lucrative Best Buy Mobile locations. Director G. Mike Mikan will replace Dunn as interim CEO while the company searches for a new skipper.

Wall Street reacted positively to the news. Best Buy’s stock price jumped over 3% with heavy trading after the announcement but seems to be dropping back towards its opening price as of this post’s writing. Update: The stock price now crashing.

The company’s full press release follows below.

Best Buy Announces Leadership Transition
Interim CEO Named to Lead Company

INNEAPOLIS–(BUSINESS WIRE)–The board of directors of Best Buy Co., Inc. (NYSE:BBY) today announced that Brian Dunn has resigned as chief executive officer and director. There were no disagreements between Mr. Dunn and the company on any matter relating to operations, financial controls, policies or procedures. There was mutual agreement that it was time for new leadership to address the challenges that face the company. Director G. Mike Mikan has been named interim CEO to lead the company while a search for a new CEO is underway. Richard Schulze, the founder of Best Buy, continues to serve as chairman.

“We thank Brian Dunn for his many years of service to the company and wish him well in his next endeavors”

“I have enjoyed every one of my 28 years with this company, and I leave it today in position for a strong future. I am proud of my fellow employees and I wish them the best,” said Dunn.

“We thank Brian Dunn for his many years of service to the company and wish him well in his next endeavors,” said Schulze. “As we move forward, we are very pleased to have a strong leader with Mike Mikan’s credentials as interim CEO.”

“The Best Buy team and I will be extremely focused on successfully managing this period of transition. I want to assure our employees, customers and other key stakeholders that we will work together to achieve our company’s growth and profitability goals,” said Mikan.

Mikan, who will remain on the board while serving as interim CEO, has been a Best Buy director since April 2008. He formerly served as executive vice president and chief financial officer of UnitedHealth Group Incorporated and chief executive officer of Optum, a health care services company and affiliate of UnitedHealth. Mikan has strong financial and operational expertise, as well as public company leadership experience.

A search committee of the board of directors has been created consisting of the founder and members of the nominating, corporate governance and policy committee. The committee will oversee the process for the identification and selection of the next CEO.

Triple Threat: Toshiba Unveils Three New Quad-Core Excite Android Tablets

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Spring has come, and like new buds springing forth from the loamy earth, so too are new gadgets constantly being released into the real world. Today’s first helping of new gear comes from Toshiba, who has just fleshed out their Excite line of Android tablets with three new entrants: the Excite 7.7, Excite 10, and the plus-sized Excite 13.

These three new Ice Cream Sandwich-powered tabs share most of the same fundamentals — they all sport NVIDIA’s quad-core Tegra 3 processor for example, as well as 1GB of RAM, a pair of rear and front-facing camera (5 and 2MP, if you’re interested). Also appearing throughout the line are the usual complement of WiFi and Bluetooth radios, which are nestled within tidy aluminum frames.

As their names imply though, each tab sports a distinctly-sized (and Gorilla Glass swathed) display that Toshiba presumably hopes will help them squeeze into a handful of niches. Take the Excite 7.7 for instance — Toshiba’s super-portable offering is the thinnest of the lot with a 0.3-inch waistline and is also the only to feature a AMOLED display.

That portability and power will definitely cost customers a pretty penny though, as the 16GB model will hit shelves on June 10 with a hefty $499 price tag. Customers looking to step up their memory game can expect to fork over a total of $579 should they opt for the 32GB variant. Heads up folks, the Excite 7.7 also has a microSD card slot, so you can probably score 32GB of storage for a little bit less.

The Excite 13 sits on the other end of the size spectrum, and Toshiba pegs the big guy as a real winner when it comes to media playback thanks to that sizable 13.3-inch 1600 x 900 display and its array of four speakers. Also on board are a Micro HDMI port for some quick TV connections and a full-sized SD card slot for additional storage. It’s also worth noting that while it may seem like the homebody of the group, it isn’t terribly tough to lug around at 2.2 pounds.

Should Toshiba’s claims pan out, the Excite 13 shouldn’t leave too many users in the lurch with a dead battery — they report that they’ve been able to squeeze an awfully appropriate 13 hours of use out of the thing. Expect the 32GB model to go for $649 and the 64GB model to retail for $749.99 when they launch alongside the Excite 7.7 on June 10.

Meanwhile, the Excite 10 (not to be confused with the very similarly named Excite 10 LE) is nestled right in the middle and purely in terms of hardware, it’s more robust than the tab that preceded it. In order to make that happen though, Toshiba had to compromise a bit on the size. While the original Excite 10 LE featured a remarkably thin 0.3-inch waistline, the new Excite 10 sports an ever-so-slightly chubbier build at 0.35 inches thick (the decision to keep the Micro HDMI port and go for a full-size SD card slot probably didn’t help).

If you’re the sort that can’t bear to wait for shiny new gear, than the Excite 10 may be the tab to keep your eye on — it’s going to be released ahead of its brethren on May 6, with prices ranging from $449 for the 16GB model, $549 for the 32GB, and $649 for the 64GB.

Jumptap: Early Days For The New iPad Show A ‘Heavy’ But Still Marginal Impact On Traffic


The new iPad from Apple has so far smashed all of its own sales records for previous tablet models, selling 3 million units in its opening weekend, with total sales projections for 2012 at up to 66 million.

But according to some early (possibly too early?) figures from the mobile ad network Jumptap, that is not yet translating into a surge of traffic from the devices.

On the opening day, the iPad represented 0.52 percent of total iPad network traffic. That figure peaked at 2.28 percent on day three, and then declined to 1.92 percent of traffic by day six. In contrast, the iPad and iPad 2 each had 45 percent or more of total iPad traffic, Jumptap says in its latest MobileSTAT Report.

But is this too early to call? It seems that the low numbers are mainly due to the fact that even with sales going strong in its opening days, the total number of new iPad devices is still small compared to the embedded base of iPads.

In Q1 2012 alone, Apple noted that it sold 15.43 million iPad devices, a 111 percent increase over the same period a year ago. That embedded base is bound to outweigh that of 3 million-plus new owners.

What’s perhaps more notable here is where traffic appeared to decline with the introduction of the new iPad. Paran Johar, Jumptap’s CMO, notes that in its network of 107 million mobile users, traffic on the iPad 2 slightly declined after the introduction of the new iPad. That seems to run counter to the idea that the most likely people to upgrade will be those owning the first iPad. But what it might really appear to illustrate is that fanboys early adopters are simply remaining true to form, with the first buyers being those who bought the iPad 2 just when it came out.

Another noteworthy trend picked out by Jumptap in its latest report looks at how Wi-Fi is being used by smartphone owners. It turns out that just as users of the iPad tend to use Wi-Fi more than 3G and 4G connections, the same goes for iPhone consumers, who are opting for it more than Android and BlackBerry device owners.

Jumptap notes that 58 percent of iPhone users turn to Wi-Fi on their devices to use data, compared to 35 percent of Android users and 41 percent of BlackBerry users. Jumptap’s guess: no 4G on iPhones. But others might argue that it has to do with cellular connectivity simply being more patchy on the iPhone than on other devices. It could also be down to data plans still priced at a premium for iPhone owners.

Figures from Localytics last month found that only six percent of iPad traffic on its network was coming from cellular connections.

Jumptap also dove into providing some demographics on users of two comparable gaming apps, Angry Birds and Words With Friends.

While Angry Birds is significantly more popular (20 million daily active users, compared to 7.9 million on Words), Words with Friends appears to attract more monied players: 24 percent of Angry Birds’ user base have incomes of over $100,000, compared to 40 percent for Words. Words With Friends also had more Democrat users (75 percent compared to 51 percent for Angry Birds) while Angry Birds users were more tablet friendly and twice as likely to use a tablet as another user, compared to Words With Friends’ users being half as likely to use a tablet.

Recent improvements mitigate Android emulator performance woes

Android application developers frequently complain about the poor performance emulator that is included in the platform’s SDK. The animated transitions and other graphically-intensive characteristics of the user interface introduced in Android 3 and 4 have only exacerbated the problem.

Developers can breathe a little easier now, because Google’s efforts to improve the emulator are finally paying off. An entry that was published today on the official Android Developer blog highlights several major changes that will make the emulator much more pleasant to use.

The new system image bundled with the emulator can use the host computer’s GPU to perform hardware-accelerated rendering. As you can see in a demo video that Google published, this will make the animations much smoother. The user experience in the emulator will now be much closer to that of running Android on actual hardware.

A video!
Google demos hardware-accelerated rendering in the Android emulator

Another recent improvement is optional support for running x86 images that natively access the host computer’s CPU. This can help improve the performance for processor-intensive applications because it avoids the overhead of having to interpret ARM CPU instructions.

Using a virtualized x86 instance of Android for faster performance during testing is a trick that application developers have been using for a long time with third-party system builds. The availability of x86 Android in the standard emulator interface through the SDK management tool will make this capability more easily accessible to application developers.

The x86 image and support for hardware-accelerated rendering will largely address the long-standing complaints about Android emulator performance. As Google works to attract more developers to the platform, these kinds of improvements to the developer experience are going to help.

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Jack Tramiel, Founder Of Commodore International, Dies At 83


Jack Tramiel, one of the PC industry’s major pioneers, has died. He was born in 1928 and, after surviving imprisonment in Auschwitz and another concentration camp during World War II, first established the Commodore name in business in 1953. His most successful endeavor, and one of the most successful in the history of computing, was the legendary Commodore 64, one of the very first computers built, as Tramiel would later put it, “for the masses, not the classes.” He was 83.

The legacy of Commodore lives on to this day, mainly in how this breakthrough device popularized the idea of a home computer. The C64, introduced in 1982, will certainly be remembered fondly by many readers of this website, as well as the Vic-20 and other less iconic devices. After he left Commodore, Tramiel purchased Atari in 1984, though its most influential devices were already behind it. Commodore, too, would go on to smaller successes like the Amiga series.

There will soon surely be more comprehensive and relevant examinations of Tramiel’s life and work, but for now let it suffice that the man was critically important in the history of personal computing, and in a great part shaped its present and future. He is survived by his wife and three sons, and of course the indelible mark he left on the industry.

No human interaction required: AT&T iPhone unlock can be done via iTunes

Hate going into AT&T stores and interacting with real humans? Worry not, as unlocking your AT&T iPhone is turning out to be a simpler process than expected for some users. The process can still be performed in-store by AT&T personnel, but it can also be done at home with the help of AT&T chat, Apple, and iTunes.

We reported on Friday that AT&T would begin unlocking iPhones for qualified customers beginning Sunday, April 8. That was yesterday, and readers have begun reporting back with their experiences. As it turns out, all you really need is an active Internet connection and your iPhone’s IMEI number to get started (you can get it from your iPhone under Settings > General > About). After logging into AT&T’s website with your account credentials, you can then bring up AT&T’s Wireless Support Chat where you can request your device be unlocked.

As long as you meet the criteria—your phone isn’t associated with an active-term commitment, you’re out of contract, and your account is in good standing—AT&T will likely approve the request. But then it comes down to Apple, which has to push your unlock code to your e-mail address before you can proceed (this happens within 72 hours, but many users have said it took an hour or less). Once you receive the code, you must perform a backup and restore of the device through iTunes while tethered to a computer.

As with most processes that are user-facing, the unlock process doesn’t always work smoothly. AT&T’s own documentation on the process points to this Apple support document on troubleshooting unlock issues, though there are a number of forum threads dedicated to discussing the nuances of performing the unlock procedure as well. Do you have any extra tips to offer for those who have yet to go through the process?

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