The Tech News Blog

April 2, 2014

Microsoft Offering Windows for Free on Phones, Small Tablets

Terry Myerson

Microsoft gave away some nice freebies at today's Build conference in San Francisco - including an Xbox One and $500 Windows Store gift certificate - but Redmond will also be giving away Windows licenses for smartphones and tablets less than 9 inches.

The move means phone makers will be able to produce Windows Phone devices and small Windows-based tablets without having to pay Microsoft a per-device licensing fee.

"To drive adoption of your applications and get your applications out there for more customers, on phones and tablets with screen sizes less than nine inches we are making Windows available now for zero dollars," Terry Myerson, executive vice president of Microsoft's operating systems group (pictured), said during the developer conference.

The move is a big switch for Microsoft, which has made billions by licensing its Windows software. But this offer doesn't cover its lucrative Windows desktop software, but rather the struggling mobile version.

March 18, 2014

Apple Ditches iPad 2, Drops iPad 4 to $399

4th-generation Apple iPad

Say farewell to the iPad 2. Apple today announced that it is discontinuing its aging tablet and will drop the price on its iPad 4 to make the device its lowest-priced iPad.

The iPad 4 (referred to formally as the iPad with Retina display) is now on sale starting at $399 for the 16GB Wi-Fi version; Wi-Fi plus cellular will set you back $529. A 32GB, 64GB, or 128GB version is not currently on sale. For that, you'll have to swing for the iPad Air, which starts at $599 for the 32GB Wi-Fi version.

The move means that all of Apple's larger iPads now include a Retina display; the original iPad mini still has a lower-resolution screen.

"Now for $399 customers can get iPad with a stunning 9.7-inch Retina display, fast A6X chip, and 5MP iSight camera, offering a dramatic upgrade in power, performance and value compared to the iPad 2 it replaces," Philip Schiller, Apple's senior vice president of Worldwide Marketing, said in a statement. "The iPad line sets the gold-standard in mobile computing and all iPads have access to the largest and best ecosystem of more than 500,000 iPad optimized apps from the App Store."

March 17, 2014

4G LTE Surface 2 Arrives Tuesday

Microsoft Surface 2 AT&T 4G LTE

A 4G LTE version of Microsoft's Surface 2 tablet arrives on Tuesday via AT&T for $679.

The 64GB model will be available at Microsoft retail and online stores, as well as all Best Buy and Best Buy Mobile locations and

Microsoft's Surface 2 boasts increased speed and battery life over its predecessor, a dual-position kickstand, Microsoft Office Home & Student 2013 RT and Outlook 2013 RT, a full HD screen, an upgraded front- and rear-facing cameras, and a full-size USB 3.0 port.

New customers will also receive 200GB of free OneDrive storage, good for two years.

"Every day, more and more people are using Surface," Panos Panay, corporate vice president of Surface, wrote in a blog post. "As the device becomes a part of people's everyday lives, I get excited about the possibilities that start to open with a fully connected device."

March 3, 2014

Android Tablet Sales Overtake Apple’s iPad in 2013

10 Best Tablets

Apple's multi-year reign at the top of the consumer tablet heap ended in 2013 as slates running Google's Android operating system outsold iOS-based iPads for the year, according to Gartner.

Sales of Android tablets accounted for 61.9 percent of the global market last year, or nearly 121 million units sold in 2013, Gartner said Monday. Overall, tablet vendors sold just over 195.4 million tablets with various operating systems for the year, up 68 percent from 116.3 million units sold to end users in 2012.

Apple effectively created the market for consumer tablets in April 2010 with the release of the first-generation iPad. Cupertino remained the market leader for three years, but tablets running Android had gained considerable ground by 2012, when iOS held 52.8 percent of the global market, followed by Android at 45.8 percent.

Last year, Apple's iOS-based tablets came in at 36.0 percent of the market with 70.4 million units sold, according to Gartner. That actually represented a nice increase from the 61.5 million iPads sold in 2012, but Android's major gains—particularly with first-time tablet buyers and in the "low-end smaller screen tablet market" —wound up reducing Cupertino's overall market share by 16.8 percentage points anyway.

February 12, 2014

Surface Tablets Used at Work More Than iPads

Surface Pro 2 Alt

Microsoft thinks its Surface devices are better for work activities than the iPad and Android alternatives, but does corporate America agree?

Based on North American usage data, the answer is yes – Surface tablets are actually being used in work settings more than competing gadgets, according to new data from advertising and Web analytics firm Chitika.

"Surface users generate a slightly greater share of their total Web traffic during working hours as compared to iPad or Android tablet users," the firm said in a new report Wednesday. "However, in terms of raw traffic volume, iPad and Android tablet users lead the pack at all hours of the day, and usage patterns among all tablets remain relatively similar overall."

February 2, 2014

Microsoft Cuts Prices on Tablets in Online, Retail Stores

Dell Venue 8 Pro

If you're keen to pick up a Windows tablet, then some brand-new discounts at Microsoft's online and retail stores might just be that final push that sends you over the edge to shoppingville – or something equally dramatic like that.

According to InformationWeek, Microsoft has slapped a fresh batch of tablets with a pretty decent discount, bringing a number of them to (or below) $250 each. The sales include the 32GB edition of Dell's Venue 8 Pro – an Intel Atom Z3740D-powered device with an 8-inch touchscreen that now has $70 shaved off its price, dropping it to a final cost of $229.

That's the most inexpensive tablet Microsoft is offering, however. From there, the tablets jump up to $249 for the now-discounted 32GB Lenovo Miix 2 8 ($50 off) and the 32GB Toshiba Encore WT8-A32M ($80 off). Both feature 8-inch touchscreens, two gigabytes of memory, and run Intel Atom Z3740 quad-core processors.

Yes, there is a difference between that and the Z3740D chip found in Dell's Venue 8 tablets. The latter comes with a single-channel memory controller versus the Z3740's dual-channel controller, but the differences in performance – if any – are likely impossible to tell with the naked eye. The dual-channel controller gives the chip the capabilities to support a higher display resolution, but Dell's tablet – like the other eight-inch devices at Microsoft's store – comes in at a resolution of 1280-by-800 pixels.

January 24, 2014

Microsoft Doubles Surface Sales, Reports Strong Final Quarter

New Microsoft LogoMicrosoft said Thursday that it doubled its quarter-over-quarter Surface tablet sales in the final three-month period of 2013 and has moved nearly 4 million Xbox One consoles since introducing the next-generation gaming system just before the holiday season.

The software giant said it generated $893 million in revenue from shipments of Surface devices in its fiscal second quarter, up from $400 million in the previous quarter, while also reporting that combined sales of Xbox One and Xbox 360 consoles for the holiday quarter totaled 7.4 units.

Microsoft reported its fiscal second quarter earnings on Thursday afternoon, notifying investors that it enjoyed revenue of $24.5 billion for the quarter ending Dec. 31, 2013, with gross margin of $16.2 billion, operating income of nearly $8 billion, net income of $6.6 billion, and diluted earnings per share (EPS) for the quarter of $0.78 per share.

"Our commercial segment continues to outpace the overall market, and our devices and consumer segment had a great holiday quarter," Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer said in a statement. "The investments we are making in devices and services that deliver high-value experiences to our customers, and the work we are doing with our partners, are driving strong results and positioning us well for long-term growth."

Redmond's best narrative for the quarter appeared to be in its devices and consumer business, with revenue growing sequentially in that segment by 13 percent to $11.91 billion. Some of that growth was likely seasonal in the holiday quarter. Regardless, Microsoft is surely feeling positive about the doubling of sales associated with its Surface line regardless of season, seeing as how the company has been fighting for some time to gain consumer acceptance for its products which compete directly with Apple's iPad and slates running Google's Android operating system.

January 3, 2014

Acer Tips New Android Tablets Ahead of CES

Acer Iconia A1-830

Acer is bringing a pair of low- and even-lower-priced Android tablets to the Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas next week, the 7.9-inch Iconia A1-830 and the 7-inch Iconia B1-720.

The Iconia A1-830 (left) has Intel's 1.6GHz, "Clover Trail+"-class Atom Z2560 processor inside, is packing 1GB of system memory, and sports a 7.9-inch, 1,024-by-768 resolution, LED-backlit display with Acer's IPS technology. It will be priced starting at $179.99 in the United States and at $199.99 in Canada.

Acer didn't identify the maker of the dual-core, 1.3GHz chip powering the $129.99 Iconia B1-720, which also has 1GB of system memory, so it's probably safe to assume it's an ARM chip.

Both tablets run Google's Android 4.2.1 Jelly Bean mobile operating system. The Iconia A1-830 and will be available in North America sometime in the first quarter of 2014 while the Iconia B1-720 is set to hit retail shelves in mid-January, Acer said.

"Our fundamental goal when creating the Acer Iconia A1-830 was to provide our customers with an optimized Android tablet that stands out from other devices," Paul Tayar, director of product marketing for Acer America's connected devices division, said in a statement. "Consumers expect more than ever from value-oriented products, and the Acer Iconia A1-830 tablet delivers outstanding performance and battery life, a bright IPS display and a more premium aluminum metal finish than is typically offered in tablets in this class."

December 16, 2013

The $38 Android Tablet Is Coming to the U.S.

Ubislate 7ci

The $37.99 Android tablet is finally coming to the U.S. The Datawind Ubislate 7ci, which we checked out when it launched in India last year, is rolling out here with Wi-Fi, 2G, and 3G models to bridge the digital divide, according to Datawind CEO Suneet Singh Tuli.

"With how computing evolves and continues to evolve, these things are going to be like the calculator of the 1970s: that affordable, that accessible and frankly that disposable," he said.

Datawind is initially targeting these tablets mostly at schools. That's in its wheelhouse; the education market has been its major success in India, where the small Canadian company became the country's No. 2 tablet vendor at one point, with nearly a million units sold in the past year. You'd think that U.S. schools would be happy with their iPads, but Tuli points out that in our deeply economically divided country, a $299 iPad isn't affordable for a lot of people.

"A lot of the areas where we're getting interest seem to be those who are working with minorities and the inner cities where they're a lot more price sensitive … with a quarter of people not having broadband access at home, a significant number of kids don't have these tools," he said.

Yes, there are other cheap tablets on the U.S. market, but none are quite as cheap as the Ubislate. Walgreens sells a range of $89 and $99 tablets. Amazon has a few tablets in the $60 range. Datawind has not only a cheap tablet, but a 9-year history of products solid enough for PCMag to review and a supply chain that's been tested by its Indian success.

December 3, 2013

HP Releases Quartet of Consumer Tablets for the Holidays

New HP Slates

Hewlett-Packard this week released a trio of Android tablets powered by Nvidia Tegra processors for the holiday shopping season, including a pair of 7-inch slates and an 8-incher, as well as the new 10-inch HP Slate10 HD with a dual-core Marvell chip under the hood.

HP Slate7 Plus
The HP Slate7 Plus, sporting a 7-inch, 1,280-by-800 display, is available for $149.99 on HP's retail site. It runs Android 4.2.2 Jelly Bean and sports Nvidia's Tegra 3 application processor, while offering 1GB of DDR3 SDRAM and 8GB of internal storage. The Wi-Fi-enabled tablet, available in a silver finish, measures in at 194.7 by 122.7 by 10.7 mm and weighs 0.75 pounds.

The Slate7 Plus has an 0.3-megapixel, front-facing VGA video webcam with an omni-directional microphone and 5-megapixel, rear-facing camera for still photography and 720p video. The tablet's 4000 mAh lithium polymer battery provides up to 6.5 hours of battery life between charges, according to HP. Ports include a headphone-microphone combo slot, a microUSB slot, and a microSD slot for expandable storage up to 32GB.