Monday, 8 September 2014

The Digital Reader

The Digital Reader

Kobo Won’t be Launching New Tablets This Year

Posted: 08 Sep 2014 03:44 PM PDT

kobo-ifa-1[1]Kobo is exhibiting at IFA Berlin this week, where they revealed a radical change to their hardware plans. According to, Kobo won’t be releasing new tablets this year and will instead be focusing on getting their apps on other companies’s hardware.

When Takahito Aiki took over for Mike Serbinis earlier this year, we knew from his reputation as a turnaround specialist that Kobo could be making some changes in pursuit of profitability. Kobo subsequently laid off 63 staff, and now they’re cutting back on their hardware investments.

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Kobo Arc 7HD

Kobo Europe sales director Throsten Schroer is on the record as saying that the tablet market was “a very difficult market in which all manufacturers have to fight”. This has led Kobo to decide not to replace the 3 Android tablets they launched last year, thus ending (for now) Kobo’s 3 year long experiment with Android tablets.

This move makes a lot of sense. For some time now I’ve been saying that the market is glutted with decent tablets. This has led everyone from Amazon to Google to scale back their efforts; Amazon still hasn’t leaked a 7″ tablet yet this year, and Google has only just now sent a new 7″ tablet through the FCC.


So long as Kobo had a sugar daddy, they could have ignored market trends and continued to make the huge capital investments necessary to bring new hardware to market, but now that Kobo has to become profitable that’s no longer possible.

And from the sounds of it, I don’t think Kobo is going to be launching any new ereaders in the near future, either, which means that the recently launched Kobo Aura H2O could be Kobo’s only hardware launch in 2014.

Again, that’s not such a bad idea, and it ties in with Kobo’s need to get the biggest bang for their buck. As I pointed out when I covered Kobo president Michael Tamblyn’s interview last month,  Kobo has had to be nimble and focus on areas where the big guys aren’t investing any time or money. And with the market full of budget and mid-priced ebook readers, that left one place for Kobo to go: up market, with premium 6.8″ ereaders like the Aura HD and the Aura H2O.

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Cambridge University, PlasticLogic Produce World’s First Flexible Graphene-Based Display

Posted: 08 Sep 2014 01:33 PM PDT

firstgraphen[1]Here’s an interesting new screen tech which has an excellent chance of never reaching the market.

The Graphene Center at Cambridge University, in partnership with PlasticLogic, has just revealed the first graphene-based flexible grayscale display. According to the press release:

Graphene is a two-dimensional material made up of sheets of carbon atoms. It is among the strongest, most lightweight and flexible materials known, and has the potential to revolutionise industries from healthcare to electronics.

The new display prototype was built on a flexible plastic backplane which PL originally developed for use in ebook readers. The tech is quite similar to the Mobius screen tech which E-ink debuted last year, except in the case of the prototype it has yet to leave the lab.

In its ideal state, graphene consists of nothing but carbon, giving it a shade of black which is unmatched by existing epaper screens on the market, including screens produced by the market leader E-ink.

If this tech makes it out of the lab and into production, it could offer a screen which is much blacker than existing E-ink screens. But as you can see in the following video, this is still an early prototype and still has a ways to go before it is as fast as existing epaper screens:

As cool as this is, it’s still coming to the screen tech market late in the game. It’s competing against an established tech which might not be as good, but already has the bugs worked out. This could well preclude a startup working on a graphene display from getting enough funding to finish development, thus keeping the tech off the market – at least until E-ink buys the tech and incorporates it into their products (I am not predicting it, but I would not be surprised if that happened).

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Adobe Releases Digital Editions 4.0 Featuring inComplete Support for Epub3

Posted: 08 Sep 2014 11:29 AM PDT

epub3-logo[1]Beating the third anniversary of Epub3 by about a month, Adobe released a new version of Adobe Digital Editions today.  Now publicly available for OSX and Windows, Adobe DE 4.0 is the first version of this app to officially support Epub3 – such as it is.

The new app supports many parts of the EPub3 spec, but according to the release notes there are still a few features which have been left out.

For example, Adobe DE 4.0 does not support embedded audio or video, and it is also lacking support for basics like right to left languages (Arabic, Hebrew, etc) . The search function is incomplete, and the app is also lacking advanced rendering features (such as knockout, overprint, and non-separable blend modes). And last but not least, mouse wheel scrolling is officially not supported for Epub3 ebooks.

120B42C8d01_pic0007[1]And it gets worse for Windows users. This version of the app is also lacking MathML support, and it does not play well with IE9. The Windows app will also ignore several lesser features, including wbr, which is used to indicate where to split a word when hyphenating.

In addition to the incomplete support for Epub3, several bugs have also been mentioned in release notes, including memory management issues caused by large image files and other issues.

While I would normally encourage readers to rush out and get the new app right away so you can play with it, I think it might be better to wait until more of the bugs are worked out and more features are supported. But if you would like to try Adobe DE 4 and experience the joy of Epub3 for yourself, you can download the app from Adobe.

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Amazon Fire Phone Knocked Down to $.99 Plus Two Year Contract

Posted: 08 Sep 2014 09:09 AM PDT

fire phoneAmazon just inadvertently confirmed last month’s speculation on the early sales of the Fire Phone; they really have been terrible.

When the Fire Phone debuted close to three months ago, it was available exclusively from AT&T and cost $199 with a two year contract. Today Amazon slashed their prices, reducing the cost of the Fire Phone.

It’s still an AT&T exclusive here in the US, and the actual retail price is still $649, but starting today you can get Amazon’s first Fire Phone for under a buck plus that two year contract.

I am still waiting for the AT&T website to update and confirm that the two year contract hasn’t changed, but it looks to me like Amazon is not happy about Fire Phone sales, and decided to goose  them by dropping the price by a couple hundred dollars.

Or at least that’s one interpretation; Amazon might also be anticipating the launch of the new iPhone tomorrow, and is moving their smartphone down to a lower price tier (perhaps because it frankly cannot compete with the iPhone),

Beset by lackluster reviews, many have been speculating that the Fire Phone was a flop, and today’s news shows that there was some truth to the idea.  I for one doubted that speculation, but even I think that today’s news says bad things about the Fire Phone’s sales so far.

Whether the sales will continue to inhale is another matter; this might be enough to boost sales out of anemic to merely unimpressive. We’ll have to wait and see.

The post Amazon Fire Phone Knocked Down to $.99 Plus Two Year Contract appeared first on The Digital Reader.

New Leak Reveals a Square iWatch Design Which Won’t Go Into Production Until January

Posted: 08 Sep 2014 08:00 AM PDT

Bz2ajzj[1]With Apple’s next press event less than 24 hours away, a new leak  may just have offered the first proof that the mounting rumors are true: there is an iWatch in the works.

A couple hours ago an anonymous redditor posted a set of slides which may show parts from the iWatch.

Marked with a Quanta logo, the slides  show what appear to be CAD images of components for a smartwatch. The images, which are now hosted on imgur, reveal a square iWatch design with a circular plate on the underside where the watch would be in contact with skin. He also has images which may or may not show components of the iWatch, including a cable sub-asembly, buttons, a speaker, and that circular plate.

Assuming this is real and not some clever forgery, the iWatch will have battery life in excess of a day. It won’t be going in to mass production until January of next year, and it will be available in 4 colors and two sizes.

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While I’m not saying it’s true or not, this does tie in closely with the latest rumor which suggested that the iWatch will make an appearance tomorrow but won’t ship until next some time next spring. This would also explain the spate of rumors over the past week which revealed details about the iWathc’s function and features, as well as a Reuters report that Apple had invited the fashion press to its event tomorrow.

If these images are real then it just goes to show that my rule of waiting for real leaked info still rates as the best rule of thumb for judging what passes gadget news these days.  I may have taken my victory lap a little early when I last covered the iWatch rumors a couple weeks ago, but on the larger scale I was still not wrong.)

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Apple Hit with Stockholder Lawsuit over eBook Price-Fixing Settlement

Posted: 08 Sep 2014 06:16 AM PDT

News of a new lawsuit against Apple crossed my desk this morning.

From GigaOm:

Apple shareholders are suing CEO Tim Cook along with some of the company's other executives and directors, claiming that their role in a price-fixing conspiracy with publishers damaged the company.

According to a complaint filed on Thursday in California state court, Cook and other senior Apple figures bear "responsibility for ensnaring Apple in a multi-year anticompetitive scheme" that resulted in a highly-publicized trial and a proposed $450 million payout by the company to settle related complaints that it illegally raised the price of ebooks.

This lawsuit is a response to Apple’s decision to settle the antitrust lawsuit brought by the DOJ and states’s attorney generals over Apple’s role in the 2010 conspiracy by 5 publishers to raise and fix ebook prices.

It’s based on the point that the highest levels of Apple’s management knew about the conspiracy at the time the iPad launched. As we can see from the clip below, Steve Jobs more or less admitted to knowing that the 5 publishers which had signed as launch partners for iBooks were going to conspire to raise ebook prices:

Even so, I’m not sure there is anything really newsworthy about this suit; I have to agree with Roberts over at GigaOm that this smells like a nuisance suit brought by lawyers hoping Apple will pay them to go away.

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Hisense Sero 8 Pro Makes an Appearance at IFA Berlin

Posted: 08 Sep 2014 04:44 AM PDT

Hisense-Sero-8-Pro-Hands-on-1024x588[1]Many industry watchers have been wondering when Hisense would launch a Sero 8 Pro tablet to compliment the Sero 8 tablet released this spring, and that premium tablet made its first public appearance at IFA Berlin this week.

Hisense’s successor to the Sero 7 Pro sports an 8″ IPS display with a screen resolution of 2048 x 1536. It runs Android 4.4 KitKat on a 1.8GHz quad-core Rockchip CPU with 2GB RAM, 16GB internal storage, and a microSD card slot.

This tablet has two cameras (5MP on the rear, 2MP on the front), and there’s no sign of a flash like on the Sero 7 Pro. Measuring a mere 6.4mm thick, this is reportedly the thinnest tablet at IFA Berlin, but Hisense still managed to cram in a 4.5Ah battery into the metal shell.

hisense sero 8 proThe Sero 8 Pro has not yet been formally announced by Hisense, but according to MobileGeeks this tablet will ship in the UK in November, with a retail price of 199 euros.

The US price will likely be $199, if not less.

To be perfectly honest, with that price tag I’m not sure that this is a successor to the Sero 7 Pro. While that 7″ tablet had great hardware, it also had a rock-bottom price that set a new standard. The Sero 8 Pro, on the other hand, is priced higher than some name brand Android tablets.

That is a different from the Sero 8, the budget priced complement to the Sero 8 Pro. I wasn’t exactly in love with the Sero 8 when I reviewed it in July, but I found it to be a decent value.

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The Morning Coffee – 8 September 2014

Posted: 07 Sep 2014 08:33 PM PDT

The reading list is short this morning, and it includes a satirical take on updates to textbooks.

The post The Morning Coffee – 8 September 2014 appeared first on The Digital Reader.

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