From the category archives:

Big Tech

Samsung’s new Galaxy S4, which gives us a glimpse at a future where all our computing needs are satisfied by the same device, may have made the company become legitimate competition for tech powerhouse Apple.

Last year, Samsung accomplished the impossible when its top-of-the-line smartphone temporarily outsold the iPhone. The company also sold more smartphones than any company in the world in 2012. Still, Apple’s ability to put out new software and experiences to customers has helped keep it considered the dominant company in the business.

Whether or not analysts continue to feel that way throughout this year depends on the iPhone 5S, due Q3 2013. Since launching Siri 18 months ago, there’s been little to no innovation coming from Apple. The company’s stock price has been plummeting since the release of the iPhone 5. If the new iPhone only makes minor OS tweaks and continues to merely implement one or two new features every 24 months, Samsung might just pull ahead – in that same amount of time, they developed the S Translator, ChatOn, Smart Pause/Scroll, Air View/Gesture, WatchOn, Adapt Display/Sound, S Health, Sound & Shot, Group Play, and Dual Camera… almost all without parallel on iOS/iPhone.

Apple has the largest bank balance and best supply chain in the world, but if the iPhone 5S doesn’t wow us, they may be eating Samsung’s dust by the end of this year.

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This weekend’s South by Southwest in Austin, TX was filled with hundreds of startups hoping to get discovered. And one of the individuals who attended the event in hopes of finding the next big tech startup was former NBA superstar Shaquille O’Neal, who is know for his social media savvy and was among the first big-name celebrities to start using Twitter (which first made a name for itself at SXSW 2007).

“I’m a big tech geek,” O’Neal told American-Statesman. “I’m a nerd. I’m always looking for the next big thing.”
O’Neal teamed up with Tout, a smartphone app that enables users to record and share quick video clips, at the event for the “Pitch Shaq” contest. After reviewing 15-second pitches submitted through the app by SXSW attendees, he selected his choice companies to make face-to-face presentation to him; that startup could then potentially walk away with O’Neal as an advisor or investor.

“I’ve always tried to partner with people who are way, way smarter than me,” said O’Neal at the event.

“I’m looking for something that’s very simple … and that’s going to change the world. I look for individuals who are sort of like myself — big dreamers.”

On Monday, Shaq said he had viewed more than 150 pitches and had chosen two winners: Beam, which makes a mobile videoconferencing device that rolls around on wheels like a Segway; and Speakerfy, a social-sound app that lets you wirelessly sync music between different Apple mobile devices.

“We’re very flattered. I’d love to figure out how Shaq could use (our device) in his business,” Scott Hassan, CEO of Beam, told CNN. “We’re not really looking for funding right now. We’re well funded. But if he really wants to, we could probably work something out.”

“We’re very excited, don’t get me wrong. We would love to do anything with Shaq. We want his advice,” said Austin Wright, vice president of operations for Speakerfy.”But we’re good, funding-wise. That’s awkward. Do we tell Shaq no?”

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Apple, Google, Facebook, Amazon, Microsoft, Adobe, Cisco, eBay, Electronic Arts, Intel, Intuit, Oracle, Twitter and Zynga are all joining together… to fight same-sex marriage restrictions.

These and hundreds of other companies have signed on to a brief filed with the U.S. Supreme Court, arguing that federal same-sex marriage restrictions hurt their businesses. They hope to overturn the federal Defense of Marriage Act, as laws which bar federal recognition of same-sex marriage burdens them with extra costs and bureaucratic tangles. DOMA puts the companies in a position that “forces us to treat one class of our lawfully married employees differently than another, when our success depends upon the welfare and morale of all employees.”

The companies argue federal law forces them to engage in administrative acrobatics to offer equal benefits to all employees “to compensate for the discriminatory effects of DOMA,” such as unequal tax treatment of opposite-sex versus same-sex couples. As a result, keeping morale high and recruiting new talent becomes harder, affecting their bottom lines. They also say that DOMA forces them to betray their principles, as it “conscripts (companies) to become the face of its mandate that two separate castes of married persons be identified and separately treated,” the brief complains, even in states, counties and cities that ban workplace discrimination based on sexual orientation and marital status.

Stanford University law professor Jane Schacter believes that this support from big companies will force the court to decide if the government has good reason to discriminate against one class of people.

“It’s likely to look to the court more like an issue of prejudice and intolerance.”

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2012: The Year Of Several Major Big Tech Flops

by steven on February 15, 2013

Now that we’re a month into 2013, we can finally look at last year’s official sales numbers and see just where things went right for big tech companies, and where things went very, very wrong. And after some close observation, we’ve found that 2012 saw some huge tech flops! Check them all out:

  •  3D Televisions. These saw a mere a 3% rate of adoption in American homes last year. The glasses are bulky and headache-inducing, picture quality in these TVs varies greatly, and they’re too expensive.
  • BlackBerry. Last year, RIM announced that the new OS BB10 would come out before the end of 2012. It was supposed to be RIMs comeback and it sounded exciting enough… but it didn’t come out until this year. As a result, several fans of the company have lost interest.
  • Nokia Lumia 900. Nokia and Microsoft launched their first major phone together in the beginning of 2012, and despite its cool-looking unibody design and beautiful 4.3 inch screen and 8 megapixel camera… no one really cared.
  • Sean Parker’s Airtime. This startup turned out to be a whole lot of nothing.  It was supposed to revolutionize communication through Facebook, but it suffered from a stagnant user base despite its $33 million in funding.
  • Apple Maps. Apple Maps proved to be a complete disaster. Not even the fancy new features like 3D imagery and spoken turn-by—turn navigation could save this error-filled product.
  • Play Station Vita. Vita had amazing graphics, excellent design and build quality, and promised a strong online community and cross play with the PS3. But it never really became a must-have for anyone.
  • Google Nexus Q. Google decided to postpone the launch of this high profile hardware product indefinitely, just days before it was expected to ship the first units. As impressive as the hardware specs were, it was a little more than an Apple TV aimed at Android users… and the Apple TV sold for a fraction of what Google was asking of Nexus Q.
  • Facebook’s Reach Generator. Facebook started promoting a new product called Reach Generator last March that was supposed to increase the frequency with which brands would hit users’ news feeds. But after six months, Facebook totally forgot about it.

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2013 will be a huge year for debuts from our favorite big tech companies. While some of the tech advancements we’re about to promote are still just rumored, a few have already made their way into the spotlight. Check them out!

  • A Mozilla Firefox Mobile Operating System. Google and Apple both have a mobile operating system, so isn’t it about time Firefox joined the club? The browser company is finally making plans to dip its toes into the smartphone pool; it will supposedly support rich content with HTML5 and find new ways to tap into the hardware.
  • Microsoft’s Surface Tablet Pro. The Surface Tablet’s Pro model will have a legit Intel i5 dual-core processor, and its Office Touch apps are expected to be a business user’s dream come true.
  • LG’s BP730 Blu-ray player. This Blu-ray player will support 3D and web streaming, with Hulu Plus, Pandora, Netflix, YouTube and a web browser right out of the box. It will also suppors Near Field Communication (NFC) technology, so users can easily pair smartphone and tablet content with the player. It’ll have a dual-core processor for All-in-One search across VOD and app services and LG’s Magic Remote.
  • Amazon Kindle Phone. The Wall Street Journal was the first to start the rumor about this one, citing unnamed sources. They claim that the device will use a 5-inch display that’s similar to the Samsung Galaxy Note or a 4-inch screen that looks like the rumored iPhone 5. It would match up nicely with the Kindle Fire and include custom apps for reading books and watching videos.
  • iPad Mini.You’ve probably been hearing rumors about the 8-inch version of the iPad for months, and some outlets are stating that the device is indeed going into a manufacturing phase.
  • Leap Motion.Leap Motion sits next to your computer and can detect your hand movements with an accuracy of 1/100 of a millimeter, so you can flip through photos or reach into a 3D diagram and manipulate objects without touching a thing. It’ll help business users answer the phone or give a presentation with just a flick of their hand!

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