FAA Might Let Travelers Use Tablets During Takeoff, Landing
Among the various modern-day requirements for air travel, the ban on electronic devices during takeoff and landing has been the topic of much debate. Will my iPod touch or Kindle really interfere with the operation of a plane?
While your smartphone will likely have to remain in the off position for the foreseeable future, theNew York Times reports that the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) might start allowing the use of e-readers and tablet devices during take-off and landing, provided they are switched to airplane mode.
A government-industry group set up in Aug. 2012 to study the use of portable electronic devices on airplanes will likely announce by year's end that it will soften rules on portable gadgets, the Times said, citing a member of the group and an FAA official. That will enable you to continue reading an e-book or magazine while waiting in that long runway line or as your plane makes its final approach.
An FAA spokeswoman pointed to the industry group announcement from last year, and said only that "the group has not made recommendations, yet."
"We're looking for information to help air carriers and operators decide if they can allow more widespread use of electronic devices in today's aircraft," Acting FAA Administrator Michael Huerta said last year. "We also want solid safety data to make sure tomorrow's aircraft designs are protected from interference."
Amazon Acquires Text-to-Speech Firm Ivona Software
Amazon today announced its acquisition of Ivona Software, a leading text-to-speech technology company that already powers some Kindle Fire features.
Details about the deal are scant, but Amazon said in a release that Ivona's text-to-speech, voice guide, and explore-by-touch functions are available on its Fire tablets, and are utilized by developers, businesses, and customers globally.
"The Ivona team shares our passion for innovation and customer obsession, and we look forward to building great products to deliver world-class voice solutions to customers around the world," Amazon Kindle vice president, Dave Limp, said in a statement.
The text-to-speech option converts written text into human speech to be read aloud to tablet owners. Ivona boasts voice and language portfolios with 44 voices in 17 languages, and is currently developing more, according to Amazon.
"For more than 10 years, the Ivona team has been focused on creating innovative text-to-speech technologies," Lukasz Osowski, CEO of Ivona, said in a statement. "We are thrilled that Amazon is supporting our growth so that we can continue to innovate and deliver exceptional voice and language support for our customers."
Financial details of the deal were not released.
Amazon Confirms Opt-Out for Kindle Fire Ads
Amazon confirmed today that buyers of the new Kindle Fire HD tablet will be able to opt out of on-screen ads for a $15 payment.
According to an Amazon spokesperson, "with Kindle Fire HD there will be a special offers opt-out option for $15. We know from our Kindle reader line that customers love our special offers and very few people choose to opt out. We're happy to offer customers the choice."
The company's new Kindle Fire HD tablet comes in three models: a 7-inch version for $199, an 8.9-inch model for $299 and an 8.9-inch tablet with 4G LTE for $499. All three models default to showing "offers," ads on their lock screen and at the bottom of the home screen for books, movies, TV shows and Amazon products.
With e-ink Kindles, customers can pay a supplement to have the offers kicked off the device's lock screen. Over the past few days there have been conflicting messages from Amazon as to whether people will be able to do the same with the new Kindle Fire HD, but this note from Amazon seems clear.
Amazon Reveals Refreshed Kindle Fire, 8.9″ Kindle Fire HD w/1920×1200 Display
As the only company that has released a tablet that has managed to take a dent out of Apple's iPad sales (the Kindle Fire accounts for 22% of U.S. tablet sales), many people are looking forward to seeing what Amazon's next generation Kindle Fire has in store. The first generation Kindle Fire made a splash with a $199 price point and 7" form-factor, but Amazon is looking to expand the lineup’s appeal with second generation the devices.
The first up is a refreshed 7" model. It keeps the same look as the original, but includes a faster processor and twice the RAM. In addition, the price has been slashed from $199 to $159. It's hard to argue with faster performance and a cheaper price tag.
But the big announcement is the Kindle Fire HD. This new tablet has an 8.9" IPS display (1920x1200) with 254 ppi. The tablet is only 8.8mm thick and weighs just 1.25 pounds. Powering the Kindle Fire HD is a Texas Instruments OMAP 4470 processor.
Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos even took at a dig at the Apple iPad by announcing that the Kindle Fire HD comes with dual stereo speakers that feature Dolby Digital Plus technology. The Kindle Fire HD also includes dual Wi-Fi antennas an MIMO compared to a single Wi-Fi antenna on the iPad and Nexus 7. Bezos says this allows its new 8.9” tablet to outperform all competitors in Wi-Fi bandwidth tests.
Opponents of Apple E-Book Case Say Amazon is Real Threat
The Justice Department today released some of the comments it received regarding the ongoing Apple e-book price-fixing case, and many of those opposed to the deal argued that the alleged price fixing helped stop Amazon's stronghold on the e-book market.
In total, the DOJ received 868 comments from individuals, publishers, booksellers, and even Apple.
"Those in support largely commented favorably on the government's efforts to end the conspiracy that cost e-book purchasers millions of dollars, and restore competition to the e-book market," the DOJ said in its response to those comments, which were filed with a New York district court today. "Critical comments generally were submitted by those who have an interest in seeing consumers pay more for e-books, and hobbling retailers that might want to sell e-books at lower prices."
In its comments, Apple said that the DOJ is looking to "impose a business model" that will re-establish Amazon's e-book monopoly, charges the DOJ denied.
The issue dates back to April, when the DOJ filed suit against Apple, as well as five other publishers, over an alleged "illegal conspiracy" involving e-book price fixing.
Amazon ‘Mother’s Day’ Deal Knocks $30 Off Kindle Fire
Perhaps in response to discounts on the Nook the day before, Amazon today launched a one-day Mother's Day deal of sorts on its Kindle Fire.
Amazon's deal is for one day only, however, while the Nook offer remains in effect until the day before Mother's Day, May 12. B&N said Tuesday that the company will knock off $20 on the Barnes & Noble Nook Color and Barnes & Noble Nook Simple Touch for Mother's Day, and throw in a gift bag, to boot.
Barnes & Noble's discount cuts the price for the Nook Color from $169 to $149, while the Nook Simple Touch price is now $79, down from $99. Barnes & Noble said that the $79 price point was its lowest ever for a Nook e-reader. That makes the Nook Simple Touch the same price as the original Kindle.
Should you get Mom a product that someone else has used, and discarded? While PCMag has not tested the refurbished version of the Kindle Fire, a number of commenters in the comment thread attached to the deal have vouched for the refurbished Kindle Fire's quality. Amazon also apparently doesn't ship the Kindle Fire in a box that indicates the device has been refurbished, they said.
Report: Tablets Putting a Big Hurt on Ereader Sales
Global ereader shipments are pegged to drop precipitously in the first quarter of 2012 as the availability of cheaper tablets with similar functionality appears to have had a "substitution effect" in the market, according to a new report from DigiTimes Research.
Ereader manufacturers are expected to ship just two million units in the first quarter of 2012, down from nine million units shipped in the final quarter of 2011, the research arm of the Taiwan-based tech journal reported Monday.
Seasonality is surely part of the cause for the decline in unit shipments. Ereaders like Amazon's Kindle and Barnes & Noble's Nook are great beneficiaries of the gift-giving season. But DigiTimes Research indicated that the introduction of viable, less expensive tablets like Amazon's own 7-inch, Android-based Kindle Fire and the Nook Tablet from Barnes & Noble at the end of last may be having a more profound effect on ereader sales.
Barnes & Noble Discounts, Gives Away Nooks With Subscriptions
Barnes & Noble is discounting and giving away Nook devices with the purchase of subscriptions to various publications, in hopes of boosting sales of the Nook line.
The company on Monday announced that customers with a one-year subscription to the New York Times will receive a free Nook Simple Touch, instead of for the normal price of $99. The alternative option is a Nook Color for $99, rather than the normal price of $199, with a Times subscription.
A Nook subscription to the Times costs $19.99 per month and includes full access to NYTimes.com.
Additionally, Barnes & Noble announced that it's selling the Nook tablet for $199, down from $249, with the purchase of a one-year subscription to People Magazine, a title B&N said is consistently among one of its best-selling. The Nook edition of People costs $9.99 a month.
Barnes & Noble Nook Tablet Shipping Early
If you pre-ordered a Nook Tablet, you can get your hands on it a bit early. Though Barnes & Noble said the device would arrive on doorsteps and in stores on or around Nov. 17, the company confirmed that it will actually be available today.
The device will be delivered and available for in-store pickup on Wednesday. Those who didn't pre-order can start buying the tablet in stores tomorrow.
The Nook Tablet includes a 7-inch touch screen with 1024-by-600 display and runs a TI OMAP 4 dual-core processor. The $249 Nook Tablet boasts 16GB of internal storage, expandable up to 32GB via a microSD card and includes access to Barnes & Noble in-store support.
Rival Amazon also shipped its Kindle Fire tablet a day early for shoppers who pre-ordered the device; it was originally scheduled to ship on Nov. 15. During an earnings call last month, Amazon said pre-orders for the Fire exceeded expectations, prompting the company to ramp up production on the tablets. Dave Limp, vice president of Amazon Kindle, also said this week that the $199 Kindle Fire is already the best-selling item across all of Amazon.com.
Barnes & Noble Unveils $249, 7-Inch Nook Tablet
Barnes & Noble on Monday unveiled an update to its Nook line, adding the 7-inch Nook Tablet.
The $249 device is available for pre-order now and will be in stores and delivered to customers' homes by the end of next week. The device will also eventually be released at retail stores like Best Buy, Staples, Walmart, Target, Office Max, Radio Shack, Fry's, PC Richards, and more.
Barnes & Noble also dropped the price of the Nook Color from $249 to $199 and promised a huge update with over 100 enhancements.