Tuesday, 4 November 2014

The largest of the trio of devices unveiled today by Google is the new Nexus 9 tablet, built by HTC.

HTC, which has struggled to make a hit Android device in the past years, has been given the reigns on Google's latest tablet, an 8.9-inch device that will fit snugly between the company's 7-inch and 10-inch models from 2013. 

Somewhat strangely, the 8.9-in. IPS LCD display will have a 2048-x-1536 resolution (4:3 aspect ratio) which Google says is part of the company's "new focus on productivity." Under the hood is the crazy powerful Tegra K1 64-bit processor, and 2GB RAM. Having tested the K1 on the Nvidia gaming tablet, I can tell you that the processor flies and is very impressive. 

HTC has added dual front-facing stereo speakers for improved audio playback, and added their own BoomSound audio software enhancements. The 6700 mAh battery should give you 9.5 hours of active use, lower than the Retina iPad Mini but much improved from the Nexus 7. 

Running on the new Android 5.0 Lollipop and all its features, Google has included a "tap to wake" option that was seen in the past on LG's tablets as 'Knock On." You have to tap the screen twice to turn on the display without needing to hit the power button. 

Google will make the tablet available for pre-order on Friday, with launch on November 3rd. Priced at $399 for a 16GB model, $479 for a 32GB model, or $599 for a 32GB model with LTE, the tablet is priced equally with the rival iPad Mini. 

Meet Microsoft Band, Microsoft's $200, fitness-focused wrist wearable

Wednesday night Microsoft confirmed what we all expected—that it, too, has an activity tracker that it wants you to wear 24/7, for work and for play. It's called the Microsoft Band. Looking as much like a hospital bracelet as anything else, the $200 Microsoft Band features a rectangular, 320x106 TFT display that hovers over your wrist. Sensors—a continuous optical heart monitor, GPS, UV sensor, and more—track your activity while on the move and at rest, and send the data to what Microsoft calls the Intelligence Engine, aka Cortana’s little brother. The Band is designed to work with third-party apps, including MyFitnessPal, Run Keeper, and even Starbucks, which has developed a “payment” app of sorts.

In all, Microsoft is calling the Band its flagship device of Microsoft Health, a reboot of sorts for a health initiative it tried to establish with products like Health Vault. If you choose, you can store the data the Band collects in Health Vault and share it with your medical provider. Otherwise, Microsoft sees the Band, and Health, as a new way to collect data about you that it can use to improve your day.

How? Initially, Microsoft sees the Intelligence Engine as supplying suggestions on how long to recover from a workout, for example. Over time, the Engine will apparently be able to comment on whether eating breakfast will make you run faster and more effectively. It’s unclear how the Engine will feed data into Cortana, but she’s there: You’ll be able to ask Microsoft’s digital assistant to add calendar entries, for example, or dictate a text. And, of course, the Band will notify you about upcoming appointments, as your Windows Phone already does.

“Imagine you've set the goal that you want to get fit and lose weight as part of your exercise routine,” Zulfi Alam, general manager of Personal Devices at Microsoft, said in a statement. “Based on your burn rate and exercise over one week, we will soon be able to auto-suggest a customized workout plan for you. As you follow that plan – or if you don’t follow the plan – our technology will continue to adjust to give you the best outward-looking plan, like a real coach would do.”