Thursday, October 27, 2011

Productivity Future Vision from Microsoft

Microsoft has today unveiled a new site along with a new video to explain their view on the future of productivity. According to the site, the video shows their vision for a future where technology extends and highlights our productive capabilities. The video builds on the previously released Vision 2019 ideas and forecasts a more connected, more streamlined way of implementing technology in our daily lives. MS emphasizes that all the ideas in the video are based on existing real technologies. Kurt DelBene, President of Office division at Microsoft says:
Watch this video to see how we see technology moving from a passive tool to a more active assistant, helping us get things done, and strengthening our interactions with one another. You’ll see how people can stay productive using a variety of devices from slates and PCs to mobile devices where they can access their information regardless of their location or the device they are using.
Collaborating on projects with remote colleagues gets easier. Information can be interacted with and manipulated using touch and voice commands to create beautiful and useful documents. Better decisions can be made faster with information that is contextually relevant to where you are and what you are doing.

Review: Sony Ericsson Xperia Neo V

Before the invasion of the iPhone and Android phones, Sony Ericsson's ‘Walkman’ phones ruled the multimedia handset segment; most of them were the best in class, in terms of multimedia capabilities. When Android came out, Sony Ericsson was a bit hesitant not only to adopt the new OS but the 'smartphone' in general; the result? Their sales plummeted and Sony Ericsson collapsed to the No. 6 spot from No. 3 in terms of market share. Motorola was in a similar situation, but they realized the potential of Android like Samsung and never had to look back since then. Better late than never, Sony Ericsson finally decided to move onto Android and hence Xperia was born. The Neo V is the latest kid in the Xperia block to hit the Indian market (It is the successor of Xperia Neo, which was never officially released in India). Will Sony Ericsson be able to catch up with the likes of Samsung, LG and Motorola and reclaim their old spot? Let’s find that out, shall we?

First Impression:

What I have with me is the ‘blue gradient' Xperia Neo V (not the most flattering of the three, the other two being White and Silver). It looks quite nice, at least until you pick it up and start messing around with it. It has glossy finish, so obviously it is a fingerprint magnet (but it won’t be too much of an issue with the other colors). It is all plastic (so not so heavy), but the problem is that SE has taken it to the next level, you won’t find even a tiny bit of metal anywhere, except may be the screws.

It feels very cheap and sometimes you can even hear the creaks from the plastic, something you may find only in some cheap toys (I expected a lot more, for a phone at this price range, it feels awfully cheap). The phones is a bit chunky and quite narrow (116 x 57 x 13 mm), so if you have small hands (ladies..You hear me?), then using it one handedly is going to be quite troublesome. The most awful thing is the charger and HDMI port covers (not the first time I’m seeing one of these in a handset, but with the Neo, there is a good chance that you might actually tear them off when you pull it, if not careful).
Note:  The plastic used in the Neo V seems to be better than what I expected, it certainly feels cheap (maybe the glossy finish) but the body did survived some abuse (so not bad after all). 

Take off the back cover and voila… there is no sign of any metal here too. You have to push the SIM into compartment (hopefully it stays there) and do the same for memory cards as well (to take it out you have to give it a push and then shake it off from the phone, oh god !). So the Neo V failed to impress me with its build, with cost cutting written everywhere.

Note: The SE phones are going to be a lot 'plasticky' from now on, the 50% of the material is made from recycled plastic ( so get over the 'plastic only' body; But still.. they could have made it a bit better, the fit and finish with the non-recycled 50% can be better, right ? :B )

Display and Touch Interface:
The Xperia Neo V has a 3.7” LED backlit capacitive touch Gorilla 'scratch resistant' (thanks Neeraj) display with Bravia Engine, but is it good enough? The answer is yes; though not as good as the Super AMOLED from Samsung, it actually looks quite nice, the colors are pretty natural, it is sharp and brightness and detail is spot on. I’m not sure about what the Bravia Engine does (they say it is an image processor, which basically enhances the colors), turning it off didn’t make any noticeable changes but I guess it might come in handy when you are using the HDMI. The capacitive touch display is very responsive and it didn’t miss any of my inputs; impressive. There is a built in dictionary (which gives suggestions as you type on top of the keyboard) and ‘swype’ too is integrated, so no problems here.

The Neo V’s camera has been degraded to a 5 Mp generic sensor, from the Neo’s 8 Mp Schneider optics sensor. The images are compressed to under 1Mb, so a bit disappointed with the quality of the images. The camera button is two stage (just like in a digital camera, you press it half way to focus and press it all the way to release the shutter) and the AF is reasonably fast. There is an LED light if you need a bit more light when taking some close-ups. The Camera App lets you select metering mode, white balance, Exposure Compensation and there is a scene selector if you want to use presets. The secondary VGA camera in the front for video calls has acceptable quality although there is noticeable noise in medium lighting.

The Neo V lets you capture 720p(1280x720) videos at 30fps, with image stabilization (the video isn’t that jerky) and you can apply most of the settings for camera here too. Sony Ericsson has also integrated their 3D sweep panorama app which lets you capture 3D panorama (and view it on a Bravia 3D TV) by panning the camera and stitching up the pictures into one wide image. (It looked 2D to me, but it may have some gimmick to make it 3D once you plug it into a 3D TV).

Sample Images From Neo V:


Audio and Mic:
One word;  Friggin' Awesome (okay, that is two words :P). The speakers are loud and produce clear sound even at high volume. The speakerphone is loud too and there is a second mic on the back of the phone for noise cancellation (and it works). The bundled earphones are not ‘In Ear’ types but you don’t want to spoil the exceptional audio qualities of the Neo V with crappy headphones, do you ? (I tested it with MEelectronics M6 IEM’s, and oh boy! It is something you don’t want to miss. I have my trusted old partner, the Nokia Xpress Music 5700, and the Neo V delivers an equally impressive sound quality).

The Neo V is powered by a 1500mAh battery, which lasts for almost a day under medium usage. Sony Ericsson has thrown in a lot of widgets to turn off stuff that eats up the battery like backlighting, bluetooth, Wi-Fi, GPS, Data Transfer etc. You can disable the Bravia Engine too, if you don’t need it.

Out of everything the Neo V has to offer, these are my favorites. The HDMI works flawless and you can pretty much do everything with it (games, browsing, videos…awesome). The best thing ? You can use your TV remote (if the TV supports it) for controlling the phone (Whooohoooo). Although SE hasn’t advertised USB On-The-Go support, it is there and you can use any USB OTG cables (Nokia cables works just fine) to connect USB keyboards, mice, gamepad etc (but beware of the fact that, prolonged use of these can fry the IC chip), so using the ‘live-dock’ is the safer option.

UI and Apps:
The Xperia Neo V runs on Android 2.3.4 (Gingerbread) out of the box. The Facebook on Xperia lets you share the apps you are using with your friends (not let them use it, but let them know you are using it, like if you want to flaunt any new app before your friends, then you can do it by doing a long press on the app icon and then dragging it into the notification bar), and you can merge the contacts fetched from Gmail and Facebook with the phone contacts (If all your friends are on Facebook, then don’t copy over the contacts from your old phone, it’ll pull the details from Facebook and save you the trouble). You can sync albums in your phone with Facebook, if you like to share everything you click on Facebook automatically.


The Timescape app and widget uses a cover flow like infinite loop to present you the recent updates from Facebook, Twitter and Message Inbox and it is all integrated with the ‘Facebook on Xperia’, meaning you can tap on one of these are it’ll take you to the contacts and you can then view his likes, photos etc. The 1GHz processor and Adreno 205 GPU can take on some graphic intensive apps and there aren’t any noticeable lags to speak of.

There are lot of pretty useless bloatware bundled with the phone (which sadly cannot be removed using the stock app manager), consuming your valuable internal memory (you won’t have the luxury of a large internal memory, SE feels that you don’t need anything more than ~320 MB internal memory, so bad news if you are an app freak). The phone comes with a 7 Day trial of McAfee Mobile Security app which has antivirus, tracking, locking and remote erasing, backup all built into one single app (but you can pick up free apps which can do these individually from the marketplace). There is also a 30 day trial navigation app (Wisepilot), which works quite well. (but I like mapmyindia app more, which offers a much less one time payment option).

Final Verdict:
If you can get past the crappy build quality (which I have to anyway, since I bought the phone :B) then the SE Xperia Neo V is one hell of a multimedia phone priced very reasonably (Less than INR 17,000).  You get HDMI (cable is bundled), Ice Cream Sandwich Update (Sony Ericsson promised ICS for its entire 2011 Xperia lineup), awesome audio quality, and a very nice display. If build is very important to you then some other phones worth waiting for are: Samsung Galaxy W, LG Sole, HTC Rhythm etc.

Full Spec:
Sony Ericsson Xperia Neo V:
3.7 inch reality display with Mobile BRAVIA Engine
480 x 854 pixels resolution
Android 2.3.4 (Gingerbread) OS
1 GHz Qualcomm Snapdragon MSM8255 Processor
5 megapixel camera with LED flash
Front facing VGA camera
HD video (720p) recording
FM radio with RDS
3.5 mm audio jack
GPS with aGPS
DLNA Certified,  HDMI support
Up to 320 MB internal memory, 512 MB RAM
MicroSD card slot (32 GB expandabe)
Up to 31 hrs music playback time
Up to 7 hrs 25 min video playback time
Up to 6 hrs 55 min talk-timr
Up to 430 hrs stand-by time
1500 mAh battery

Nokia demoes 'Kinetic' Prototype with Flexible Body

Nokia has demoed its 'Kinetic' prototype device with flexible body and a UI that responds to it. According to reports, twisting of the device towards the user results in selection function, zooming of picture, etc. Device responds to touch also. Have a look at the IntoMobile's Kinetic device video which has another mobile device with transparent display also being demoed.

Source: Intomobile, Engadget

Nokia launches Lumia Windows Phones

"Lumia is the first Real Windows Phone", proclaimed Stephen Elop, Nokia CEO. Well, it seems so. So far, all the Windows Phone partners had come up with designs that never succeeded in exciting the user as their counterparts from Apple and Android ecosystem. Nokia has finally come up with models that Microsoft was waiting for. Today at the Nokia World, Stephen Elop unveiled Lumia 800 and Lumia 710 smartphones. These models are not top end, high specs devices but Nokia is signalling a new beginning.

Nokia has not heavily customized the WP 7.5, but they have added a few applications which will be exclusive to Lumia devices such as Nokia Music, Nokia Pulse, Nokia Drive, etc. According to Techradar, Niklas Savander, executive VP of Markets for Nokia, said: "We made the decision to go to Windows Phone when Mango was pretty much done, so we were able to impact some elements of it but you'll really see the fruits of what we can do with Microsoft when the Apollo version of Windows Phone comes out." So much more advanced, higher spec devices may follow with future iterations of Windows Phone OS.

Lumia 800
Lumia 800 inherits its beautiful hardware from N9. The body is of injection moulded polycarbonate material which helps in giving the best antenna performance. The screen is curved Gorilla glass and the 3.7" ClearBlack AMOLED display (800 X 480) looks beautiful. The device boasts of an 8MP camera with f/2.2 Carl Zeiss lens. Supports HD video recording. Dual LED flash is positioned just above the camera. Qualcomm MSM8255 Snapdragon processor(1.4 GHz) powers the device and SDRAM is of 512 MB. User memory is fixed at 16 GB with an additional 25 GB of cloud storage as part of Skydrive. Status LED replaces the front facing camera found in N9 hardware. Volume rocker,power and camera button are on the right edge. Like N9, speaker grille is placed at the bottom, 3.5mm audio jack and enclosures for SD card and SIM are at the top edge. Capacitive buttons are provided for the Back, Search and Start functions. Dimensions are 116.5mm X 61.2mm X 12.1mm and weighs 142g.

Lumia 800 will be initially available in the following markets: Spain, UK, Netherlands, Italy, Germany and France. Hong Kong, India, Russia, Singapore, and Taiwan will be getting the device before the end of 2011. US people will have to wait till 2012.  Available in three colors: black, magenta and cyan. The price is about 420 EUR.

Lumia 710

Lumia 710 is a low end device. It does not have the fit and finish seen in Lumia 800. It features the same 1.4 GHz Snapdragon processor found in 800 and SDRAM size is also the same at 512 MB. Display is 3.7" ClearBlack TFT (800 X 480). Auto focus 5 MP camera with LED flash handles the imaging department and user memory is fixed at 8 GB max. Hardware buttons are provided for the Back, Search and Start functions. Dimensions are 119mm X 62.4mm X 12.5mm.
It will retail for about 270 EUR and will be hitting Hong Kong, India, Russia and Taiwan markets this year itself. Device will come in either black or white but replaceable back covers will be provided in 5 colors: black, white, cyan, fuchsia and yellow.

Exclusive Nokia Apps
Nokia Drive 
It is a turn by turn navigation app. It is supported over 95 countries and you can choose between 2D & 3D views. 

Nokia Maps 
It is similar to Google maps or Bing maps. Allows you to browse maps, search and find places to visit, directions,smart routes for walking, public transportation details,etc.

Nokia Music
It introduces Mix Radio which streams music directly into your device. There will be several preconfigured mixes based on your library or you can create your own. Offline storage is also supported. No subscription or login is needed for using Mix Radio. Song purchases are from Nokia MP3 store.

Nokia Pulse
Nokia Pulse lets you instantly send location-tagged updates and photos to private groups of family and close friends. So syncing up in town and staying up to date is even simpler than sending a text message, but still just as private.

Nokia Sports
 In association with ESPN, Nokia has included a sports news hub which aggregates news about your favourite sports and teams.

Nokia Live View
It is an augmented-reality browser that relies on the integrated camera.

Nokia Purity by Monster
Nokia has announced Purity range of premium audio accessories in association with Monster Cable. There will be on-ear and in-ear models available in different colors to match with your Lumia.

You can watch more Nokia Lumia demo videos here.

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Nokia announces 'Asha' range of Symbian Phones

Nokia has unveiled a new range of Symbian devices called 'Asha' (meaning 'hope' in hindi) at the Nokia World in London. Blanca Jutia,VP of Mobile Phones Marketing unveiled the Asha 200,201,300 & 303 at the event. Theses phones are targeted at the phone users in the emerging markets. All the models run the S40 OS and aims to blur the lines between feature phones and smartphones. Asha phones aim to provide easy access to the world of entertainment and internet.

Asha 200
  • Dual SIM with 'Easy Swap' (SIM switching without reboot)
  • 2MP camera
  • Cloud powered Nokia browser
  • Social Networking, email & IM Support
  • Supports upto 32 GB
  • 52-hr playback time
  • Price: ~ 60 EUR
  • Availability: fourth quarter, 2011

Asha 201
  • Single SIM version of Asha 200
  • 2MP camerea
  • Cloud powered Nokia browser
  • Supports Push mail and Whatsapp messenger
  • Price: ~ 60EUR
  • Availability: first quarter, 2012

Asha 300
  • Touch & Type
  • 1 GHz Processor
  • Supports 3G
  • Cloud powered Nokia browser
  • Angry Birds Preinstalled
  • Price: ~ 85 EUR
  • Availability: fourth quarter,2011

Asha 303
  • Touch & Type
  • 2.6" Capacitive Touchscreen
  • 1 GHz Processor
  • Cloud powered Nokia browser 
  • Supports 3G and WLAN
  • Angry Birds Preinstalled
  • Supports FB chat, Whatsapp messenger
  • Price: ~ 115 EUR
  • Availability: fourth quarter,2011

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

The Making of Nokia N9

Nokia has released a video showing the manufacturing process of the Meego powered N9 smartphone. Eventhough the beautiful N9 was dead on its arrival, there is still scope for hope as the awesome N9 design will re-emerge in a new avatar as Windows Phone 7 powered Nokia 800 (codenamed SeaRay). Nokia is expected to release a no. of WP7 powered smartphones in the Nokia World event to be held in London on October 26.

Tizen - New Open Source OS

As the uncertainty surrounding Meego continues, the Linux Foundation and the LiMo Foundation has announced a new open source OS project based on Linux under the name 'Tizen'. The project will be hosted by the Linux Foundation and governed by a Technical Steering Group consisting of Intel and Samsung.
Tizen is an open source, standards-based software platform supported by leading mobile operators, device manufacturers, and silicon suppliers for multiple device categories, including smartphones, tablets, netbooks, in-vehicle infotainment devices, smart TVs, and more. Tizen will offer an innovative operating system, applications, and a user experience that consumers can take from device to device.
Jim Zemlin, the Linux Foundation's executive director has said that the Meego code will be carried over to Tizen.
Tizen will provide a robust and flexible environment for application developers, based on HTML5 and Wholesale Applications Community (WAC). With HTML5's robust capabilities and cross platform flexibility, it is rapidly becoming the preferred development environment for mobile apps and services. The Tizen SDK and API will allow developers to use HTML5 and related web technologies to write applications that run across multiple device segments, including smartphone, tablet, smart TV, in-vehicle infotainment, and netbook.
All the existing Meego applications will run on Tizen also. Initial release is being planned for the first quarter of 2012. 

Monday, October 24, 2011

Rendering Synthetic Objects into Legacy Photos

Researchers Kevin Karsch, Varsha Hedau, David Forsyth & Derek Hoiem have come up with a way to insert synthetic objects into ordinary still photographs. Their SIGGRAPH Asia 2011 Paper 'Rendering Synthetic Objects into Legacy Photographs' looks into different aspects which influence the appearance of an object in a real world scene and the methods to artificially reproduce them on a synthetic object. Factors influencing the process are the physical model of the scene, light sources, illumination models, properties of the object to be rendered, etc. Based on the data collected with the help of user annotation regarding the physical scene, the foreign object is rendered into the photo by using LuxRender. The end results look so realistic. Have a look into the supplementary video for the research paper below.

Samsung Galaxy S i9003 Diwali Offer

If you are looking for a smartphone with a giant 4" display, then look no further, this is what you should be looking at. The Galaxy S i9003 comes with a better battery (1650mAh instead of 1500mAh in the original Galaxy), Super Clear LCD display (the original Galaxy had the awesome Super AMOLED display, so compared to that i9003 display kind of sucks; if you really want AMOLED, then take a look at Samsung Focus, the Galaxy's WP7 avatar selling for around 14k with a US only warranty in

It runs on Android 2.2 (Froyo) and the Gingerbread upgrade is still on paper (it'll be out soon, but no sign of any cold 'ice cream', if can't wait for the ICS, get the Sony Ericsson Xperia Neo V for less than 17k, as SE has made some kind of promise that they'll push ICS update to all their 2011 Xperia phones). After going through some user forums the only problem the phone seem to have is the low battery (surprised ?? me too..), and is otherwise a great phone (users are a bit frustrated over the 2.3 update, about which Samsung is really not saying anything, hopefully they'll release it soon ).

Here is the spec, if you need it:
Samsung Galaxy S i9003:
Network and Data: 3G HSDPA 7.2, HSUPA 5.76
GSM and EDGE Band: 850/900/1800/1900 MHz, 3G Band: 900/1900/2100 MHz
Operation System: Android 2.2 (Froyo), TouchWiz 3.0 UI
SAR value: 1.62 W/Kg
CPU: 1GHz Cortex A8 CPU, PowerVR SGX530 GPU, TI OMAP 3630 chipset
Display: Full touch, 4" SC-LCD(480x800), Gorilla Glass
Physical: 123.7x64.2x10.59 MM, 131 Grams
Battery : 1650 mAh, 769 Minutes(2G, Talk), 750 hrs(2G, Standby)
Camera: 5 Mp with Auto Focus main, VGA front.
Video : 720p (1280x720) at 30fps
Memory : 4GB (internal), 521 MB RAM, upto 32 GB with microSD
Others: GPS, A-GPS, Wi-Fi 802.11 b/g/n; DLNA, Bluetooth, 3.5mm jack.
Price: 16,790/- (shipped) with 1 year Samsung India Warranty. Here is the link (1 day remaining).