Tuesday, 15 April 2014

The Digital Reader

The Digital Reader

The Morning Coffee – 16 April 2014

Posted: 15 Apr 2014 07:24 PM PDT

the new yorker coverI have a short list for you this morning. Top stories include Apple losing yet another motion in the ebook antitrust case (link), why writers should attend GenCon (link), why the biggest threat to comic book stores is not Amazon (link), and as a special bonus I invite you to click on the image at right and tell me what’s wrong with it.

  • Apple loses bid to dismiss states’ e-book antitrust cases (CNET)
  • If you write, start planning to attend GenCon Indy this August (TeleRead)
  • Kindle Direct Publishing adds new reports (TeleRead)
  • Stand Down, Amazon Warriors: Comic Book Guys Already Killed the Comic Book Store (BOOK RIOT)
  • We are drowning in data about readers and attention, but which metrics really matter? (GigaOm)

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Apple Starts to Play Nice With the eBook Antitrust Monitor

Posted: 15 Apr 2014 06:51 PM PDT

Apple’s 60858994_b6d47d7b24[1]court-appointed ebook antitrust monitor Michael Bromwich filed a new report on Monday, detailing a marked improvement in his interactions with Apple. In the 77-page report, Bromwich says that Apple has been more cooperative in the last couple months.

Bromwich was initially appointed by Judge Denise Cote to act as an external compliance monitor in October 2013, but his first months on the job were largely fruitless. Apple spent many months fighting with Bromwich, the DOJ, and with Judge Cote, trying to prevent Bromwich from doing his job.

Apple’s stalling tactics culminated in an appeal to delay the appointment of the monitor until after Apple filed their appeal to overturn the ruling which appointed the monitor, but that failed. Having lost the appeal in February which would have blocked the monitor from doing his job,  Apple has spent the past couple months grudgingly cooperating with Bromwich.

Bromwich said in the report that his relations with Apple had “significantly improved over the past six weeks” but that in spite of the improvement Apple was still  dragging their feet. The monitoring team had conducted only brief interviews of a limited number of Apple employees, most of whom were lawyers, and almost none of the senior management have been interviewed. The report goes on to note that while “Apple has made a promising start to enhancing its Antitrust Compliance Program”, the electronics company still has much work to do.

Nevertheless, Bromwich was confident that Apple is headind in the right direction. “We have started to receive more information, we have seen a greater commitment to resolve lingering disputes, and we are starting to see the original pledges of cooperation and collaboration, which for many months were at odds with the company's actions, fulfilled,” Bromwich wrote. “If that continues, the reset this Court sought will have taken place, and we will be on a path to fulfilling the important role the Court appointed us to perform.”

Michael Bromwich was appointed as an antitrust monitor following the July 2013 price fixing lawsuit brought by the DOJ and 50 states’ attorneys general. This eloquence of lawyers argued that Apple had conspired with 5 US publishers in December 2009 and January 2010 to raise ebook prices. The 5 publishers (HarperCollins, Hachette, Macmillan, Penguin, and Simon & Schuster) settled before the case went to trial, but Apple took the path of the righteous, defended their actions in court, and lost.


image by Andrew Morrell Photography

The post Apple Starts to Play Nice With the eBook Antitrust Monitor appeared first on The Digital Reader.

WordPress.com Parent Automattic Seeks New Funding Round, $1 Billion Evaluation

Posted: 15 Apr 2014 05:22 PM PDT

Automattic, a automattic_wp[1]company which is both one of the larger blog hosting companies as well as the lead developers on the WordPress platform, is reportedly currently working to raise between $100 million and $150 million in new capital.

Automattic has declined to comment on the story, which was originally reported by Fortune. If this story is true then the company will be valued at over $1 billion.

WordPress now powers 22% of the world’s websites, up from 19% last July, and Automattic hosts some of the larger blogs out there. In addition to the freemium service  at WordPress.com, Automattic also has a premium service called WordPress VIP, which offers a layer of services on top of WordPress.

Automattic was last in the news last week when they acquired Longreads, but that’s not the only well-known service they own. Automattic also owns Akismet (spam), Polldaddy, Intense Debate (comment management), VaultPress, Cloudup, and more.

While some of my readers may have known that all of those services are owned by Automattic, I confess that I did not. These are all names that I had heard of but had not realized were part of Automattic, and that changes how I see the company.

Fortune speculated that Automattic will use the funds to fight off Medium, a newer and faster growing platform,but given how many different services Automattic offers I don’t think Medium is much of a threat. The latter startup does not operate on the same scale or breadth as Automattic.


The post WordPress.com Parent Automattic Seeks New Funding Round, $1 Billion Evaluation appeared first on The Digital Reader.

Asus to Launch 3 New Budget Android Tablets

Posted: 15 Apr 2014 12:00 PM PDT

Asus asus logohas a trio of budget Android tablets on the way. There’s been no announcement from the gadget maker, but earlier this week details concerning the tablets were discovered on the Bluetooth and WiFi certification websites.

The listings don’t include many details, so at this point we don’t know the CPU, price, release date, or other specs, but the sites did reveal the model numbers, screen resolutions:

  • Asus K013: 7 inch, 1280 x 800 pixel IPS display, 1GB of RAM, Android 4.4, and front and rear cameras
  • Asus K011: 8 inch, 1280 x 800 pixel IPS display, 1GB of RAM, Android 4.4, and front and rear cameras
  • Asus K010: 10.1 inch, 1280 x 800 pixel IPS display, 1GB of RAM, Android 4.4 and front and rear cameras

There’s no information on when or where these tablets are going to be released, but there is some speculation that they will be sold under the MeMo Pad line. I’m told Asus usually uses the K0xx model numbers for that line, so it would make sense for them to continue the trend.

It’s worth noting, though, that Asus already has 7″, 8″, and 10″ MeMo Pad tablets, which means that the newer models will likely be replacements. Anf given that Asus already has a 7″ MeMo Pad tablet with a single-core CPU, it’s a near certainty that the new 7″ tablet will have to be at least a slight step up.


The post Asus to Launch 3 New Budget Android Tablets appeared first on The Digital Reader.

Leaked Pics Show Amazon Smartphone, Confirm Rumors of 6 Cameras

Posted: 15 Apr 2014 09:55 AM PDT

Hot on the heels of a new rumor about the Amazon smartphone’s features comes a new leak of a set of photos showing that the phone really does have 6 cameras.

Boy Genius Report got their hands on photos of what they say is an early prototype of the Amazon smartphone.  It’s wrapped in a plastic shell which disguises a lot of its details, but what little we can see has caused my heart to skip a beat:


As you can see, there are 4 cameras in the 4 corners. If you look closely you’ll also see an addition camera above the screen, and there is reportedly a 13MP camera on the rear of the phone.

BGR has been a reliable source of leaked Amazon hardware ever since the Kindle 2 first appeared in late 2008, and they have outdone themselves this time. While we still don’t have complete specs, BGR can report that the 4 “cameras” in the corners are low-power IR cameras.

The phone is going to be running a modified version of Android on a SnapDragon CPU with 2GB RAM. The screen will reportedly measure 4.7″ with a 720p resolution.

And yes, there will be some 3D effects:

The device's extra cameras are used to track the position of the user's face and eyes in relation to the phone's display. This allows Amazon's software to make constant adjustments to the positioning of on-screen elements, altering the perspective of visuals on the screen.

The result is a 3D experience without the need for 3D glasses or a parallax barrier in front the LCD panel like the solutions used by the Nintendo 3DS portable video game console and HTC's EVO 3D smartphone from 2011.

It’s going to be used as widely as possible, in everything from the lock screen to the wallpapers and app icons. Amazon is also reportedly going to use the feature to show off 3D  renders in Amazon’s content stores. By shifting the position of the phone, users are able to see three-dimensional product images at different angles to reveal surfaces that cannot be seen in regular photos.

Amazon is also reportedly working hard to recruit outside developers so they can have key third-party apps available at the phone’s launch which take advantage of the phone's 3D interface. The launch is expected to happen in June, with the phone to ship later. We’re also now hearing that Amazon will release a budget model later this year.

So it turns out that Amazon’s phone does have 6 cameras, and it does have at least some of the features which have been mentioned in past rumors. I am equal parts embarrassed, surprised, and intrigued.

While I am somewhat embarrassed to have gotten this one wrong, my research has shown that the rumored features (gesture tracking, eye tracking, parallax 3D) don’t require the additional 4 cameras. That has left me intrigued; I am deeply interested in finding out what Amazon is doing that no one else is doing.

Amazon would not have added the extra 4 cameras if they weren’t enabling absolutely awesome features, and I can’t wait to find out more.

I have never bought a smartphone (a flip phone has served me adequately), but I think the rumors about the Amazon smartphone are going to make me break that trend.

The post Leaked Pics Show Amazon Smartphone, Confirm Rumors of 6 Cameras appeared first on The Digital Reader.

Why the Kindle Smartphone Might Need 6 Cameras, Part Three

Posted: 15 Apr 2014 08:47 AM PDT

Rumors aboutamazon-phone[1] Amazon’s upcoming smartphone are dropping left and right with many rumors suggesting that the phone would have 6 cameras and use 4 cameras to do something cool, but so far none of the rumors really make any sense.

Update: Leaked photos show the 4 front-facing cameras in an early Amazon smartphone prototype.

Over the weekend I expressed doubts that the rumored features on the upcoming Amazon smartphone would need the rumored 4 cameras for either gesture recognition or eye tracking, and now that TechCrunch is reporting a new rumor about the 4 cameras I am still having trouble believing what I read:

According to our source, the flagship device, Duke, is powered by a heavily modified version of Android. It's FireOS with extreme 3D parallax effects, similar to those found on iOS but greatly exaggerated. The screen itself is not 3D, but rather simulates a 3D effect.

By way of four corner-mounted, front-facing cameras, a user can tilt the smartphone left or right to browse and access hidden side panels. We're told that the 3D feature is very limited out of the box. At launch, there will be just a couple of added gestures built into the operating system that utilize this system.

Contrary to previous reports, this is done through head tracking alone and does not use eye tracking at all. Amazon never worked on eye tracking for its smartphones, TechCrunch learned.

Once again I have to report that none of those features require 4 cameras.

The parallax 3D effect on the iPhone, which you can see demoed below, was accomplished with only the iPhone’s internal sensors. If Apple doesn’t need 4 cameras to pull this off then do you really think Amazon would need them?

And as for the rumored head tracking and tilt control, that doesn’t require 4 cameras either.

Would it surprise you to learn that Samsung built a similar feature into the Galaxy S4? That smartphone launched last year with almost the exact features head-track/tilt mentioned in the TechCrunch rumor, and they pulled it off with only a single camera and the sensors which can be found in nearly all smartphones.

Here’s a longer description of the features (source):

The launch of the Samsung Galaxy S4 last month garnered the type of media attention we're getting used to for any new smartphone. Among the most talked-about feature pre-launch was "eye tracking" – the phone's ability to know where its user was looking and react accordingly.

It took a few days for anyone to point out the application was more "head tracking" than eye tracking. As reported in the Wall Street Journal, it enables what Samsung is calling "smart pauses" and "smart scrolling".

In short, the "smart pauses" feature recognises if you are in front of the phone or not, and can save what you were last doing when you move away from the device and decide to come back to it. "Smart scrolling" refers to the phone's inbuilt eye-tracking technology, which detects if the phone has been tilted and scrolls up or down accordingly.

At this point folks I think it is pretty clear that none of the rumored features match up with the rumored 4 cameras.

I could easily see any or all of these features being included in the rumored Amazon smartphone because they don’t require fancy new tech, just special software and a high end smartphone.

But I still don’t believe any of these rumors provide a plausible explanation for the 4 cameras. I could be wrong, but all of the current tech on the market supports my disbelief.

What do you think?

The post Why the Kindle Smartphone Might Need 6 Cameras, Part Three appeared first on The Digital Reader.

Hisense Launches the Sero 8 Android Tablet in the UK

Posted: 15 Apr 2014 07:44 AM PDT

Hisense 611392-629644-800stunned and thrilled tablet owners everywhere with the launch of a pair of budget Android tablets last Summer. Now the Chinese gadget maker is turning their attention to the slightly less crowded 8″ tablet space with the Hisense Sero 8.

The new tablet has not yet been announced, but it is up for pre-order in the UK. Retail price is £90, or about $151, and it is expected to arrive by the end of the month.

The Hisense Sero 8 runs Android 4.4 KitKat on a 1.6 GHz Rockchip RK3188T quad-core CPU with 1GB RAM, 16GB Flash storage, a microSD card slot, Wifi, Bluetooth, and a pair of unimpressive cameras.

The 8″ screen is based on an IPS display with a screen resolution of 1280 x 800, and it has a cheaper 5 point capacitive touchscreen.

So far as I can tell no one has put their hands on it yet so it’s not possible to draw any conclusions about the tablet, but if I were to hazard a guess I think the Sero 8 is probably going to have a cheaper build quality than the Sero 7 Pro.

611392-629644-800 611393-629644-800

The Sero 7 Pro had a more expensive CPU and better cameras than the Sero 8, suggesting that Hisense is going for a cheaper market segment. The VGA and 2MP cameras on the Sero 8 make me think of the bottom of the market tablets found at $99 price point last year, and not the better quality Hisense Sero 7 Pro, which retailed for $149.

In any case, I am expecting to see this tablet released in the US in the next couple months. I am looking forward to the reviews.


The post Hisense Launches the Sero 8 Android Tablet in the UK appeared first on The Digital Reader.

Two New Sets of Leaked Photos Show iPhone 6 Components, Hint at 4.7″ screen

Posted: 15 Apr 2014 07:06 AM PDT

Two newiphone-6-grand-2 iPhone 6 hardware leaks have shown up in the past day or so, lending credible support to the rumors that the new model will have a larger screen.

Yesterday afternoon Nowhereelse.fr published a couple photos of an injection mold which looks like it could make a larger iPhone 6 shell, and this morning iphon.fr posted images of what could be the front panel for that larger iPhone 6 (at right, click to enlarge).

I don’t have any evidence to show that these leaks belong to the next iPhone and not some Chinese knockoff, but given how they are presented I do find them more plausible than the similar leaks from Sunday.

The photos of the injection mold, for example, actually look like something that could be used to create the rear of a smartphone shell . What’s more, one photo included what looks like the front panel for the iPhone 6 next to a current generation iPhone with a 4″ screen.

iPhone-6-Dimensions[1]While this would not be hard for someone to fake in Photoshop (and I already fell for one such fake), I do find it a compelling argument that the iPhone is going to get bigger later this year.

Of course, that is also what everyone was expecting to happen last year, and we all know how that turned out.

But one huge difference between this year’s Apple rumors and last year’s rumors is that none of the leaked images last year looked like the larger iPhones components which have been showing up in leaks this year.

The latest rumors suggest that Apple will launch  both a 4.7″ iPhone and a 5.6″-ish iPhone later this year. At this point I am only really expecting to see the 4.7″ model; I have not yet seen enough leaked components for the larger model.

Without those leaks I don’t know whether it really exists or is merely being wished into existence (like the iWatch in 2011 and 2012, or the iPad before 2009).

The post Two New Sets of Leaked Photos Show iPhone 6 Components, Hint at 4.7″ screen appeared first on The Digital Reader.

Amazon Quietly Starts Kindle Fire Discounts for Prime Members

Posted: 15 Apr 2014 05:37 AM PDT

Amazon’s5155SyGfEgL._AA280_[1] loyalty program offers customers shipping discounts, free ebooks, and free streaming video, making it a very nice deal at $79 (or $99, which is what we will be charged next time around).

Yesterday Amazon sweetened the deal with new discounts on the Kindle Fire tablets.

In addition to launching a sale yesterday, Amazon also expanded the rewards offered to Prime members to include a 10% discount on the Kindle Fire HDX and the second-gen Kindle Fire HD.

And to make things even better, you can combine 10% discount with yesterday’s sale. Prime members can now buy the pricy Kindle Fire HDX 8.9 for $305, down from a regular retail of $379. The Kindle Fire HDX can be had for $$179, and the Kindle Fire HD is similarly discounted.

The Prime member discount is not explicitly mentioned on the product pages, but there is a quiet little blurb (which I missed yesterday). The discount is applied when you complete the order process.


Some pundits have been expecting Amazon to announce this type of discount since before the first Kindle Fire launched. In fact, wild speculation that Amazon would give away Kindles to Prime members circulated any number of times in 2010 and 2011. One fellow even graphed the price drops for the Kindles and predicted that the price would reach zero by November 2011. That didn’t happen, obviously.




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