We know you've got questions, and if you're brave enough to ask the world for answers, then here's the outlet to do so. This week's Ask Engadget inquiry is from Xan, who wants Cintiq functionality without paying Cintiq prices. If you're looking to ask one of your own, drop us a line at ask [at] engadget [dawt] com.
"I'm a student and I'm considering staying on to do graphic design, and I really like the look of Wacom's Cintiq devices. Unfortunately I couldn't afford one even if I sold a kidney, so I was wondering if I could turn an Android tablet into a cheaper version? I figure a device like the Galaxy Note 10.1 with its Wacom digitizer would be a good fit, so is there a way to do it? Thanks!"
We're sucking in air through our teeth, as we're sorry to say, we can't think of a way this could be done successfully. There's a few problems like no software, a lack of bandwidth and doubts over the accuracy of a tablet to replicate such a sophisticated piece of hardware. That said, perhaps the forthcoming Surface Pro software update might solve this problem altogether, but an Android tablet? We're not so sure. But if there's anyone out there who has made it happen and wants to share their revelation, why not leave a note below?
Filed under: Peripherals
Because of Google I/O, this was a momentous week for those of us who are watching the rapid transition that is taking place from desktop computing to mobile, and particularly for those focused on mobile-social as I am because of my job at just.me. Here is my take on what we just witnessed.
Standalone Hangouts. Google announced at its I/O event that Hangouts was to be launched as a separate app from Google Plus, taking personal conversations out from the G+ app and putting them into their own space.
Facebook Home problems. AT&T was reported to have decided to discontinue distribution of the HTC First – the Facebook Home Android phone – due to lack of sales. This comes on the back of publicity pointing to a large number of one-star reviews for the software on the Google Play store.
What is at stake?
There are many common themes and questions that underpin the launch and evolution of Hangouts as a separate app and previously led to the decision to launch the Facebook Home product. These products represent two very similar answers to a common question. The primary question is who will users look to to enable their social communications needs on mobile devices?
To set the context for an analysis let’s acknowledge the elephant in the room that is partially driving these decisions.
Mobile Messaging is rapidly becoming the primary way users engage socially on mobile. Figures released this week imply more than 41 billion messages a day are now being delivered via various “Over the Top” (OTT) messaging apps.
Phones were created as social tools. Smartphones are especially good at being social, integrating text, voice, video and images in an endless number of apps that can serve a user’s needs, and all without the need for a web-based social network.
Users are able to communicate with anybody in their address book anywhere in the world with almost any content mix at any time. This has been compelling to users and has driven the growth of apps like iMessage, WhatsApp, LINE, WeChat, KakaoTalk and some other smaller competitors. Almost 750 million users out of a smartphone population of 1.2 billion are already using these apps.
If you are Google, Facebook or almost any other major provider of social communications platforms originally developed for the web, this move to mobile messaging represents a considerable challenge.
Similar challenges exist from media-sharing apps. As users flock to Vine, Snapchat and, previously, Instagram, the social platforms are challenged to continue to be the primary provider of these services to the growing army of smartphone users.
The other core feature of Facebook and Google+, publishing to an audience for all or many to see, are increasingly becoming activities only a few engage in on mobile — and certainly less often than was the case on the web.
What Is A Platform Provider To Do?
If we look out a few years there is really only one product approach available.
That is to build single apps that embrace and extend the current features of the messaging market leaders — hoping to win users over from WhatsApp, LINE, KakaoTalk and WeChat — while also integrating the features of media sharing, private memory collection and publishing into single unified experiences.
Google and Facebook both seem to be pursuing this approach.
Breaking out Hangouts and going after the messaging audience with enhanced features makes sense. But Google also showed Google Now and Voice Search as possible points of integration for all of its mobile-social features. It’s early days here, but Android clearly wants to find a point of integration for all the users’ needs.
Facebook, with Home, revealed its integrated approach, while under the hood it has Messenger, Camera, Pages and the full Facebook app. Poor as Home’s reception has been, Facebook will certainly continue to deepen and refine its integration efforts and its attempt to be the primary UI a user needs on a smartphone.
Vulnerabilities And Strengths Of Mobile-First Companies
WhatsApp and its clones can be thought of as mobile-first companies. Their apps sit on top of the smartphone, particularly the mobile address book, and just help a user chat to their friends, family or colleagues. Their success is their simplicity and the singular purpose they have addressed.
Insofar as they are vulnerable, it is due to being very narrowly focused on brief “in the moment” conversations in the form of a chat or instant messaging UI. They have added the ability to include media in those conversations, and some voice-calling abilities. But their goal is really momentary interactions with individuals or groups. Their requirement to have both sides of the conversation install the app is another liability.
Human beings have broader needs that are currently served by other single-use apps. Evernote for private memories, email for longer more enduring interactions, social networks like Facebook, Google+ and Twitter for public statements of all kinds and Path or Instagram for photo sharing. This is a little like the era of Windows before Outlook when apps tended to do only one thing and users used many apps.
Can Web Companies Beat Mobile-First Companies?
These recent moves by Facebook and Google represent early moves by the web-era companies to react to the successes of the mobile-first messengers. They certainly do not represent end points in any way, impressive as they are. And there is plenty of time for the mobile messaging apps to respond by offering a broader range of social features.
There are already clues to the future – provided by users. The continuing use of email on mobile (trillions of messages in 2013) indicates that users are not entirely catered for by the chat-centric conversational UI. The growth of Vine and Snapchat (single-feature based as they are) indicate not all media-sharing needs are catered for by these apps. There is a lot still to play for.
If we look five years out, it is likely that the iOS and Android core will support a far more integrated set of messaging tools that cater for many of the needs we use single-use apps for today.
Message saving for private use, shared messaging to individuals or groups, media sharing, video and voice messaging (both synchronous and asynchronous), Timelines to look back and recall what we did in the past. These will all be features of the operating system.
As mobile moves from its Windows 3.1 — single-use apps — era to its more integrated future, apps that used to stand alone will have their features sucked into the operating system. Google and Apple have an advantage here of course as they own the operating system.
The Future Is Being Fought Over Now
In that sense the current product focus – decisions about what features to separate into single apps, and how to integrate those into a unified UI all represent the first moves in defining who wins.
Facebook has Messenger, Camera, Pages and its primary app with Home as an integration point.
Google has Talk, Contacts, Mail, Plus, Hangouts perhaps with Now as a point of integration.
Apple is a little behind but has iMessage, FaceTime, Photostream, Mail and Contacts. iOS itself may be the point of integration.
WhatsApp, LINE, KakaoTalk, WeChat and the others will need to move beyond the chat-centric user interface into a broader set of asynchronous messaging features, and a new set of social features, probably with Timeline support, in order to stay ahead of the curve.
The End Of Social Networks And The Start Of A New Era?
The ground has been set for a fascinating next few years as the web-based social platforms seek to own mobile-social messaging and the mobile messaging apps seek to extend into more fully integrated social features.
As of this moment the mobile-first apps have the lead measured by number of users and levels of engagement. To keep it they will need to continue to innovate.
The human race is already social, and the smartphone has everything needed to enable them to act on their social needs. As the growth of OTT messaging and media sharing shows, a user’s social needs are being met with no need for a social network.
In this mobile-social world the only question is, whose software will we all use to enable human social activities? That is what this week was all about.
If you didn't get enough mobile news during the week, not to worry, because we've opened the firehose for the truly hardcore. This week brought a new handset from Sony to the US and UK, updates to Nokia Creative Suite and three new (and very inexpensive) smartphones from Blu Products. These stories and more await after the break. So buy the ticket and take the ride as we explore all that's happening in the mobile world for this week of May 13th, 2013.
Read more of this story at Slashdot.
Every week, we share a number of downloads for all platforms to help you get things done. Here were the top downloads from this week.
The quantified self movement's gaining steam, with companies creating all sorts of gadgets to track our activity levels, sleeping habits and even what's going on inside our heads. Melon's an EEG headband that taps into your brain's inner workings to show you how well you maintain mental focus. We actually saw Melon's prototype predecessor last year when it was called Axio, and while this new band packs largely the same components, the design's been refined to a much thinner profile. As before, its got a trio of electrodes for sensing brainwaves, a NeuroSky chip for filtering out extraneous electrical noise and Bluetooth 4.0 for offloading data wirelessly. It sends data to iPhones (Android's in development) running the Melon app, which translates that info into a focus graph -- generally speaking, the higher the neural activity in your pre-frontal cortex, the higher your level of focus. Users then input contextual data tags like time of day, type of activity and the surrounding environmental conditions to allow them to track variables that may affect their focus.
Filed under: Wearables
Read more of this story at Slashdot.
We’ve all by now heard about how Yahoo is trying to get some “cool” with a supposed $1 billion purchase of hip blogging platform Tumblr, but it may be a moot point if Tumblr’s users fail to stick around post-sale.
Microsoft and Facebook may be trying to make a move ahead of Yahoo, Tumblr may be inching ever closer to running out of cash, and (despite that) may not be afraid to play a little hardball. But here’s something you’re not hearing much about: Tumblr’s users are almost universally unhappy with the news that the site might get sold to Yahoo. And they may let their fingers do the talking, and the walking.
Do a search on Tumblr for “yahoo” and you get a stream of distress, interspersed with the occasional bit of helpless resignation, and some calls for activism. The voices of reluctant acceptance (usually because of the aforementioned cash situation) or anything like positivity are few and far between. No outright enthusiasm.
(Daddy!) See for yourself.
It’s a problem that extends to some of Tumblr’s oldest users.
“If Tumblr goes to Yahoo, I will seriously consider moving my personal blog to Medium, if that’s possible,” Alexia, co-editor over here at TC, told me. She’s had a blog on Tumblr since June 2009, and, while not part of that coveted 18-24 age bracket, is a significant representative of that other cadre of important users: digital influencers. “I don’t know exactly why, but my Tumblr is a part of my identity. And for whatever reason, I don’t want to identify with Yahoo.”
User attrition is not something to be dismissed, especially when it appears to be underpinned by wider usage trends on the site.
When I wrote a post in January about what might come next for Tumblr as a business (it focused on how it could make money; not how it might need to get sold because it doesn’t), I noted that in the prior month, December 2012, it had 167 million visitors and nearly 18 billion pageviews worldwide (Quantcast figures). The trend over the last six months are down, however: in the U.S. page views are down 21% to 5.3 billion, and uniques down 5% to 76 million. Worldwide the picture is better but still not growing: pageviews are down by 4%; uniques are down by 3%.
Not a sinking ship, but not a zippy little speedboat, either. Yahoo’s MySpace, indeed.
Image via Tumblr
A lot of people are uncomfortable with haggling, but just one quick question at a hotel's front desk has a great chance of earning you a better room on your next vacation or work trip.
Read more of this story at Slashdot.
Safari/Chrome: If Twitter's web interface is a little too busy for your liking, Twipster converts it into a minimal and responsive list of Tweets, with none of the clutter.
"Facebook was not originally created to be a company," CEO Mark Zuckerberg wrote in his SEC Registration letter a little more than three months before Facebook went public on May 18, 2012. "It was built to accomplish a social mission — to make the world more open and connected."
In the year since the Facebook IPO, some things haven't changed: Zuckerberg still sports his trademark hoodies, employees still rate their company and their founder highly, and Facebook still talks about its grand mission to make the world more open and connected. But the era of Facebook operating or being perceived as anything other than a corporation seems more distant with each passing day Read more...More about Mark Zuckerberg, Facebook Ipo, Business, and Facebook
Imagine you're a truck driver. You're coming up to a tunnel that might be too low for your truck to fit under, but you're not sure. Suddenly, a gigantic red stop sign appears to obstruct the road in front of the tunnel entrance, giving you no doubt. Stop!
You're not going to overlook that explicit warning
What is this sorcery? See the video above to find out more about how this remarkable sign is created with a instantaneously produced sheet of water and — you guessed it — frickin' lasers
These pop-up stop signs made by light show company Laservision are part of an experiment that's been taking place in Australia since 2007, successfully preventing semi trucks from suddenly turning into unintended convertibles. This one is in the Sydney Harbour Tunnel, and there are several others installed in the city. Read more...More about Lasers, Tech, and Gadgets
When Valve's first hardware hire, Jeri Ellsworth, tweeted back in February that she was fired from the company, we were disappointed but also intrigued by what she meant by "time for new exciting projects." Well we finally saw what she's been up to here at at Maker Faire 2013. It's called Cast AR, and it's a pair of 3D augmented-reality glasses that she and former Valve programmer Rick Johnson were working on at Valve before they left.
The model we saw is still in the early prototype stages, but the concepts are already in place. Perched atop a pair of active shutter glasses are a couple of miniature LCD projectors, which bounce images from a connected computer onto a special reflective surface at a 120Hz refresh rate. A camera module sits on the eyewear's bridge and monitors an array of infrared LEDs embedded in the reflective surface. This allows for quick and accurate head tracking. Join us after the break for our impressions and our video interview with Jeri Ellsworth.
Gallery: Cast AR hands-on at Maker Faire 2013
Alt-week takes a look at the best science and alternative tech stories from the last seven days.
If we're to find a common thread in this week's collection of stories, it'd be nature's guiding hand. How it inspires science, how we seek to imitate it, and how unnatural the future of policing could be. This is alt-week,
It was a big week in tech, the week of Google I/O. But apart from the annual Google geekfest that its developers conference is, there was much more. We were in San Francisco to cover Google I/O, but we also kept an eye on the rest of the world of tech for Top 10 Tech This Week
The biggest story of the week — which in turn contained countless big stories — was Google I/O, the company's developers conference. Even though this time nobody parachuted onto the conference building wearing Google Glass, the conference was still full of juicy announcements: new Hangouts, new Google Maps, a 3.5-hour keynote featuring CEO Larry Page and much more Read more...More about Tech, Apps Software, Dev Design, Gadgets, and Mobile
Read more of this story at Slashdot.
Ah, the benefit of hindsight.
Those who rushed to buy Facebook stock at its initial public offering price of $38 per share on May 18, 2012, are likely a little disappointed with their investment one year later. Though the stock has recovered from its $17.55 September 4 low, the price of the stock today, at a little more than $26 per share, is still closer to its all-time low than its opening price.
What if investors had put their money into other technology or Internet companies? Statistics database Statista looked at how a $1,000 investment made on the day of Facebook's IPO would have performed nearly one year later in the chart below. Read more...More about Yahoo, Aol, Facebook, Facebook Ipo, and Business
One of the memories that sticks with me most about the launch of the Xbox 360 was a silly analogy about inhaling. I can’t remember who said it, but the general idea was that it had a concave body to convey breathing in, perhaps a precursor to exclaiming joy. It was as daft as it sounds, but for a while there the 360 was indeed a breath of fresh air.
Xbox 360 had a lot going for it, from online connectivity to a much simpler architecture that developers preferred over the PlayStation 3. In its first few years it maintained the position of being a very games-focused console. Xbox 360 was the home of indie games, for example, and digital distribution. It widely popularized the notion of achievements.
But three, maybe four, years ago Microsoft started to push bigger ideas. It left a lot of the gamer-ish stuff behind and redesigned the console’s dashboard toward a media focus. Over a series of updates, Xbox slowly went Metro, became about Netflix, avatars and Kinect. Most of these innovations didn’t stick so well, and the cost they incurred was significant. Xbox 360 went from being a clear proposition to a complex and all-over-the-place machine.
Many Kinects were sold, but few people actually used them for long. Many channels of TV content were brought into the fold, but finding room for them essentially killed its indie games market and lost a lot of credibility with that group. Ultimately, the successes of these divergences were generally mute. (18 billion hours of video sounds like a big deal until you break it down per unit over a year.)
This is the problem with long hardware cycles (Xbox 360 is 8 years old). Lacking annualized releases of better technology (for some reason the console industry still believes it has to carry on this way), the platform story grows old after a couple of years, leading to the urge to accessorize. Often in so doing it loses itself in the ensuing cruft, and then needs a big reset. All of which leads up to Tuesday’s news: the big event in Redmond to unveil the next Xbox. And boy does the company need it to go well.
Perception-wise, Microsoft has had a bad couple of years. Windows Phone may have won a number of plaudits for its looks, but nobody really went for it. Windows 8 sold a ton of copies, but most users sort of hate it. Surface had a glitzy launch, but people are still buying iPads. That leaves Xbox as Microsoft’s one remaining big consumer push. This one has to go right, or lots of talking heads will start to ask if there’s any market that Microsoft can get right any more.
The reason the company has had a lot of these issues, I think, is that it’s bad at listening. Microsoft consistently gets lost in grand visions, visions that only it can afford to develop, and produces super-complicated propositions that nobody loves. All those years spend trying to convince the public about Windows Live services. All that time spent trying to bring us around to using Bing. All that wasted effort trying to unify user interfaces with Metro (which at its heart is just a bit broken, as has been said over and over) and who really cares? Grand visions that lose the plot are Microsoft’s forte.
Yet, gaming folks are pretty excited about the next Xbox. Will it feature new horsepower? Guaranteed. Will it have Kinect baked into the box itself? Probably, but they don’t care. Will it require an Internet connection? Maybe, and they’re not sure what they think about that. Will it have lots of content partnerships? Undoubtedly. Will it copy Sony’s idea of a Share button on the joypad? Perhaps. Will there be a Halo game on it? You know it.
Will it actually be anything fundamentally different, though? It doesn’t sound like it, but that may not be a bad thing. There is often an assumption in tech blog circles that the audience wants permanent revolution, but often it doesn’t. Often it just wants the thing that it knows works, and if that thing gets that job right then it’s happy. The console gaming audience generally doesn’t want consoles to do anything fundamentally different. It tends to embrace features that are additive to its core desires, like online multiplayer or achievements, but all it wants are big TV games with joypads and mad graphics. Everything else is optional.
There are maybe 150 million console gamers around the world, judging by platform sales over the last few generations, and they love their expensive splashy videogames. They’ve never particularly cared for the frilly extras, like avatars, but that doesn’t stop them buying in. They like that their consoles have ESPN on them, but those are not crucial purchase decisions. They’re not convergence customers in the way that some PowerPoint deck in the depths of Redmond probably drew a few years ago to justify unified interfaces, but again they don’t mind as long as it’s not going to get in the way of playing Dishonored. For those people, the next Xbox is exciting because of the prospect of an even more-lavish Call of Duty and an even more-next-generation Skyrim. All they really want is a box that they believe can deliver that experience.
The risk for Microsoft is if it screws that message up.
When videogame platforms live too long, their platform holder often loses sight of its core competency. When the PlayStation 2 was over it had explored so many areas of the market that it was impossible to convey all of them in one coherent story. Sony tried, with the PlayStation 3, but the result was so confused that developers only really heard “it’s over-complicated” while consumers heard “it’s $599 for Ridge Racer.” This is a business built on razors-and-blades thinking.
A similar thing is happening to Nintendo with the Wii U. The Wii was a wonderfully simple device with a couple of very smart accessories (like the Wii Fit) and a raft of dumb ones. By the time the Wii U came around Nintendo seemed to have lost its sense of focus that drove Wii, instead releasing a very confusing machine. Now it’s paying the price.
The biggest risk for the next Xbox is if Microsoft departs so far from its core audience that the audience feels turned off. If the company comes out only talking about transmedia, television tie-ins, movies on demand, instant messaging, Internet Explorer, phone syncing, emailing from your couch, holographic avatars, Spotify subscriptions, Twitter integration, Facebook integration and party gaming then I fear for Xbox’s survival. The gamers will ask “Yes, but, where’s the games Steve?”
At its heart, the next Xbox needs to simply be about the games the games the games. Will Microsoft actually listen this time?
Everyone loves a good backyard garden, but hunching over a pile of dirt to plant all of your seeds isn't much fun. If you want to take some of the back bending out of the equation, this PVC seed gun should do the trick.