TAG | black
Google has just released a white version of the Nexus 7 tablet, in white and packing 32GB of storage, available now for $269 on the Google Play Devices store, so long as you’re in the U.S., U.K. or Japan. There’s no LTE version and no 16GB model, unlike with the black Nexus 7, but if you’re looking for a color match tablet for your white Nexus 5 you’re now in luck.
The bezel retains the same black paint scheme, and there’s no change beyond the back panel color job in terms of performance or specs. The Nexus 7 is a fairly capable Android tablet, however, and most likely the best deal available at that particular price point depending on your needs. If you’re looking to grab one, it’s probably a good idea to pull the trigger on that order, quickly, since these are probably going to be in fairly limited supply at launch.
You do have a little more choice, however, as LG has just announced a Google Play edition of the G Pad Android tablet, which has an 8.3-inch screen and costs just a little more at $349.
It’s Thanksgiving in the States and tomorrow is the biggest shopping day of the year. In fact stores will be open tonight so you can elbow your way into a scrum of bargain hunters and frotteurists. I’m here to tell you it’s a sucker’s game, at least when it comes to consumer electronics and computer hardware.
This is not to say you shouldn’t go out tomorrow. Are you looking for toys, scarves, and underwear for the family? By all means hit the malls. Those “soft goods” are so cheap wholesale that stores can afford to discount them drastically in hopes that you’ll make up for loss in profit with sheer volume. See a Lego door buster you’ve got to have? You better get in there.
But computer hardware is a far different matter. Consumer electronics margins are so low right now that manufacturers make pennies per device. Deep discounts usually happen to items that are on their way out anyway. I checked out Best Buy’s Black Friday page. The iPad 2 is on sale there for $299 – it’s normally $399 – but it’s the Wi-Fi only 16GB model, pretty much the entriest of the entry level. You can grab a 64GB model refurbished for $469 on Apple’s website. “But this is for mom,” you say. “She wants to read and maybe Skype us.” Get her the Kindle Fire HDX for fifty less, no mall visit needed.
What about those $300 laptops (BB has a Toshiba model)? Well, the laptops on sale aren’t going to be on the market for much longer and Black Friday is a great way to clear out old stock. CES is right around the corner and we can expect Intel’s Broadwell chip to launch in a quarter or so. Therefore you’re buying obsolescence on sale.
Don’t expect to get a deal on an Xbox One or PS4, either. You won’t even see one in stores, let alone get a discount on one.
Going for the TVs? BB is selling their Insignia brand 39-inched for $169. This is an in-store deal which means you probably won’t get one. Do you want one? Eh, sure, if you’re looking for a 39-inch monitor without many frills. Is it worth stabbing a grandmother over in order to score the last box? No.
In the end Black Friday is an exercise in pure commerce. Stores want you to come in because it means they can clear out all their stock in a few short hours. It gives them a cushion for the slow post-holiday season and it makes shopping look like an event. While I’m all for expansion of the commercial spirit, I think Black Friday is such a cynical and scammy experience that it’s hardly worth rolling off the couch to partake in. Make some real nerds happy – hit the small guys online, pick up some ThinkGeek stuff or some cool board games or Estes rockets from a smaller hobby shop and let somebody else fight over a $12 Blu-Ray player.
Nokia’s Lumia 2520 tablet will set you back $500 if you want to buy it flat out. AT&T is more than happy to sell you one at that price. Pick it up with a wireless contract, and AT&T will knock $100 off that sticker.
But pick up a Lumia 925, 1020, or 1520 at the same time, and the price of the Lumia 2520 drops to $200. That’s an incredible decline in cost. I confirmed with AT&T that the phone itself would be subsidized, but subject “to a second agreement,” or contract, so the deal only works if you are ready to pony up for two devices and requisite plans.
So, for the sum of $300 ($100 for the Lumia 925, $200 for the Lumia 2520), you can buy into the larger Windows ecosystem of Windows 8.x and Windows Phone. Why would Nokia do this? You can’t really view Nokia’s hardware choices as independent anymore, but for kicks, the reasons would be simple: Device volume is key to the health of the Windows (et al. form factors) platform. This means that Nokia does more than help its short-term revenue when it moves devices, it sets up its future by supporting the platform that it needs to stand upon.
But Nokia’s hardware division is now all but part of Microsoft’s hardware business, making the above all the more muddled in the best possible way. Let’s do this in pieces:
- Nokia lashes its tablet and smartphone hardware together, using carrier subsidies for consumers to bear the brunt of its margin pressure, to sell more units and help launch it into new hardware categories.
- Windows and Windows Phone benefit from larger unit volume, which brings more users, more downloads, and thus more developer satisfaction.
- Developers then in theory build more applications, which leads to happier customers, and therefore more customers, creating a virtuous loop.
- Microsoft buys Nokia’s hardware business, which it wants in order to sell more smartphones.
- Its new smartphone business is being used to sell tablets that compete with its own Surface line of devices.
So that’s fun, but the real issue here is that Microsoft (Nokia) has compiled a hardware package that it can presumably vend not at a loss that brings consumers onto its platforms (platform, depending on how precise you want to be), in twos instead of ones.
This is only a good for Microsoft if the Lumia 2520 is worth a damn. Early prognostications appear to be in its favor, though I can’t see why I’d prefer one to a Surface 2. But that doesn’t matter; Microsoft merely wants more RT devices sold, period. And that’s why the later points I think don’t matter to Microsoft: In the Game of Platforms, you either win or you become BlackBerry.
So to Microsoft, shaving Surface revenue in the short-term to bolster the somewhat tenuous Windows RT piece of the Windows empire probably makes sense.
Stepping back, moving units is Microsoft’s current problem, which is of course part of the same app problem that we endlessly discuss. The two are directly entertained. And Windows is bigger than Surface, meaning that it takes precedence.
Can Nokia (Microsoft) keep the deal up and not end up in a cold bath whilst ripping up hundred-dollar bills? (Margin pressure is a bitch). I don’t know, but I bet that Microsoft does. We’ll see if it keeps the gambit alive once the deal closes.
Apps and devices that track motion are of questionable use value – it’s true that they provide a general idea of a user’s activity level, but that can very wildly from reality, since there’s often very little involved in the motion tracking algorithms involved beyond detecting motion and counting that as a step. It’s not often the fault of these devices: as humans, we’re very inconsistent and unreliable in terms of where we keep these things.
Sometimes, your phone’s in your pocket. Sometime it’s in a bag. Sometimes it’s in a holster, if you miss your BlackBerry very much. But the point is, it’s not always in the same place, and where it’s stored can make a huge difference in terms of how accurately it gathers and reports information about the motion and activity of its owner.
A team at Northwestern University wanted to make activity tracking more accurate, without forcing humans to be more consistent in how they use and carry their devices. The result is an algorithm that not only compensates for when a device is carried in a sub-optimal location on a person’s body or in their bags, coats and purses, but one that actually predicts and detects when it’s being carried in different ways so that it can adapt to each new transport scenario without input from the user.
The study describing the NWU team’s work doesn’t deny that there are ways to carry a smartphone that detect motion more accurately than others – that’s still the case. But using the algorithm they’ve developed, people will at least be more likely to get an accurate picture of their daily activity regardless of where they store their phone. And the goal of the team isn’t just to make sure the next generation of NIke+ Move and ARGUS apps are better at telling you you’re lazy; the NWU researchers want to make apps useful in diagnosing and understanding critical diseases with motion-related symptoms, including Parkinson’s.
Study lead investigator Konrad Kording says that he believes smartphones will have crucial roles in personal health in the very near future, and part of preparing for that future involves making sure they not only have the sensors, but also the smarts to make sense of any data they’re gathering.
It looks like BlackBerry’s oft-cited transition period isn’t over just yet. The company confirmed this morning in a statement that the Fairfax takeover isn’t happening and that CEO Thorsten Heins is being dismissed, and BlackBerry shareholders are not taking the news very well. At time of writing the company’s stock price is hovering at about $6.90, down over 11 percent from its closing position on Friday – not exactly a sign of shareholder confidence in the ailing smartphone maker.
Still, that’s small fries compared to what happened before the market even opened. The Globe and Mail broke the story about BlackBerry’s new direction early this morning and it wasn’t long at all before the company’s stock price took a serious drubbing – it tanked to the tune of almost 19 percent before trading was halted just before 8:30 AM Eastern so BlackBerry could announce the specifics of the Fairfax deal itself, under which the company will accept $1 billion in investments from a slew of investors.
Even though things are apparently starting to flatten out, that’s not a pretty drop no matter how you slice it – today’s was BlackBerry’s lowest open since September 2012 (the Monday after it announced service outage in the EMEA regions, no less) and the dip represents a nearly half billion dollar decline in BlackBerry’s market cap. Naturally, while shareholders may be wary of the company’s future, BlackBerry chooses to look at its hefty investment as a sign of hope for its forthcoming endeavors.
“Today’s announcement represents a significant vote of confidence in BlackBerry and its future by this group of preeminent, long-term investors,” BlackBerry board chairwoman Barbara Stymiest in a statement. That’s great and all, but there’s little doubting that today’s BlackBerry isn’t surefooted in its mission as it once was. For a long while there getting BlackBerry 10 (and the devices that ran it) out the door was the guiding star over Waterloo, an initiative spearheaded by soon-to-be-former CEO Heins himself. Of course, as the Globe and Mail pointed out previously, the push was met with consternation from other BlackBerry higher-ups included former co-CEO Mike Lazaridis.
Now with Heins nearly out the door, the search for his replacement begins, as does the search for a new philosophy. Despite its legion of rabid fans, BlackBerry 10 doesn’t seem to have charmed the masses in the way the company has hoped, and I don’t envy the person who ultimately gets tapped to try and fix that.
BlackBerry is currently dealing with some serious, serious issues — no one wanted its first flagship phone, one of its co-founders might be making a dark-horse bid to buy the company back, and the company might just end up being parted out to the highest bidders. So what’s a once-dominant smartphone player to do in light of all this uncertainty and depressing soothsaying? What can it do to bolster the morale of the BlackBerry faithful who watched as friends and colleagues embraced new platforms?
The answer is a complex one but for now BlackBerry plans to reassure people the old-fashioned way — by writing a letter. According to BlackBerry fansite Crackberry, the Waterloo company will publish an impassioned letter to the people in 30 newspapers across nine countries spelling out exactly why they shouldn’t count the company out just yet.
You can find the full text of the letter at the bottom of the post, but if you’ve been following BlackBerry’s current trajectory there’s not going to be any surprises here. The positives? A debt-free balance sheet, plenty of cash holed up in the reserves, and gobs of expertise in delivering productive mobile computing experiences in secure enterprise environments. All valid points, except perhaps for the team’s invocation of BBM’s popularity as a global social messaging platform. The original launch for iOS and Android didn’t exactly go according to plan — it’s been some three weeks since those apps first started popping up in their respective app stores, and there’s still no firm word on when BlackBerry will open the floodgates again.
I find it interesting too that the letter is signed by the BlackBerry team and not by, say, CEO Thorsten Heins. It’s a clear indicator that there’s no one single person to blame for the company’s current shakiness, nor does the future of the company rest solely on one person’s decisions. Of course, that team is only going to grow smaller for the time being, as some 4,500 positions will get the axe by the end of the year. It’s all ostensibly for the greater good, but there’s no guarantee that the company’s cost-cutting measures will be enough to see them to eventual platform victory.
I don’t mean to unduly rag on BlackBerry — I was a member of that BB addict community for a spell, and I still look back on my time with devices like the BlackBerry Pearl and Tour very fondly. And to the extent that we can give BlackBerry credit for it, the company easily has one of the most devoted, vociferous fanbases I’ve ever seen, and those people will continue to support the company.
Here’s the thing though — as optimistic as the letter is, words are cheap and platitudes are unconvincing. BlackBerry needs to prove to its core customers that it’s still a viable horse in a race dominated by nimble giants, and I wish them the best. They’re going to need it.
To our valued customers, partners and fans,
You’ve no doubt seen the headlines about BlackBerry. You’re probably wondering what they mean for you as one of the tens of millions of users who count on BlackBerry every single day.
We have one important message for you:
You can continue to count on BlackBerry.
How do we know? We have substantial cash on hand and a balance sheet that is debt free.
We are restructuring with a goal to cut our expenses by 50 percent in order to run a very efficient, customer-oriented organization.
These are no doubt challenging times for us and we don’t underestimate the situation or ignore the challenges. We are making the difficult changes necessary to strengthen BlackBerry.
One thing we will never change is our commitment to those of you who helped build BlackBerry into the most trusted tool for the world’s business professional.
And speaking of those dramatic headlines, it’s important that we set the record straight on a few things.
Best in class productivity tool.
We have completely revamped our device portfolio this year with the launch of BlackBerry 10. We have four BlackBerry 10 devices – two all touch and two hybrid (touch and QWERTY) – and all are running the third update of our new platform. If what you care about most is getting things done – taking care of your business – we have the best range of devices for you. And we continue to offer the best mobile typing experience – no ifs, ands or buts about it.
Best in class security.
Governments all over the world, global corporations and businesses that simply cannot compromise on security choose and trust BlackBerry. Security is our heritage, and the industry recognizes that BlackBerry is the most secure when it comes to the device, server and, of course, our global data network. Have no doubt that you can continue to trust us to keep your communication safe and private.
Best in class enterprise mobility management.
We changed with the market, embracing BYOD because we understand that as iOS and Android devices become common in the workplace, businesses still need to manage all of these different platforms seamlessly and securely.
This is not a trivial task. While there are a number of startup companies that make bold claims, BlackBerry has more software engineers and the most resources dedicated to developing the most innovative solutions to address this complex challenge.
And our customers know it. Over the past quarter, our BlackBerry® Enterprise Service 10 server base grew from 19,000 to more than 25,000. Corporate clients are committed to deploying and testing the latest enterprise technology from BlackBerry. We are committed to evolving with our customers. That will never change.
Best in class mobile social network.
We are bringing the most engaging mobile messaging platform to all, with our BBM launch for Android and iPhone.
There are already around six million customers pre-registered to be notified of our roll out. This number is growing every day, and speaks to the tremendous opportunity we have to expand BBM beyond BlackBerry smartphones to make it the world’s largest mobile social network.
Yes, there is a lot of competition out there and we know that BlackBerry is not for everyone. That’s OK. You have always known that BlackBerry is different, that BlackBerry can set you apart. Countless world-changing decisions have been finalized, deals closed and critical communications made via BlackBerry. And for many of you that created a bond, a connection that goes back more than a decade.
We believe in BlackBerry – our people, our technology and our ability to adapt. More importantly, we believe in you. We focus every day on what it takes to make sure that you can take care of business.
You trust your BlackBerry to deliver your most important messages, so trust us when we deliver one of our own: You can continue to count on us.
The BlackBerry Team
Is BlackBerry co-founder really mulling over buying back the company he founded, now called BlackBerry instead of RIM, a company which has recently lost most of its design team and talent and… well, dignity? Is the new iMac the most amazingly awesome thing Apple has ever done in the history of Apple? What’s the deal with that new FitBit Force smartwatch, fitness tracker thing? Do we care?
And, in news that doesn’t belong on TechCrunch, what’s our excitement level on a scale of one to ten now that new Pokemon is coming out?
Intro Music by Rick Barr.
Canada’s beleaguered smartphone pioneer BlackBerry is apparently warming to the idea of a break-up, Bloomberg reports, as the Fairfax Financial buyout bid for the entire company looks a little more uncertain due to a failure to secure the appropriate amount of funding, or partners to help them do so.
The companies reportedly approached by BlackBerry as potential suitors, including SAP, Cisco and Samsung, are only interested in parts of BlackBerry, not the whole kit and caboodle, according to Bloomberg. If a break-up went through, it would give BlackBerry the chance to auction off the most lucrative parts to the highest bidders, who might be more likely to compete with one another once they don’t have to worry about also taking on the unprofitable parts of the business and mitigating the risk associated with those assets.
Reuters reported earlier this month that Google, SAP and Cisco were among companies that were interested in buying BlackBerry or its parts, and the company had also approached LG, Intel and Samsung according to that report. Bloomberg’s new information echoes that, and adds that SAP is considering the value of attempting to acquire portions of the company, while Intel is looking only at patents. None of the companies covered by Bloomberg are interested in making a bid for the entire company as it exists now.
In terms of what is and isn’t appealing to potential buyers about BlackBerry, it’s pretty clear that the enterprise business is among the most attractive targets. The phone business is not considered an asset at all, RJF analyst Steven Li tells Bloomberg, owing to its steadily declining handset sales figures. There is some good news in the phone business, however, as Canadian telco Rogers reversed its decision not to carry the BlackBerry Z30 smartphone. Still, interest in BlackBerry hardware at home in Canada isn’t representative of appetite for its devices elsewhere.
BlackBerry seems destined for a break-up in the end, unless Fairfax can pull in some last-minute support to help its bid for the company as a complete unit. It’s much more likely that we’ll see it parted out, however, which, while sad for the brand and its defenders, could at least mean something bearing the BlackBerry name survives, if under new ownership and management.