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Google’s Step Forward

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Lost in the hurricane last Monday you might have missed Google’s unveiling of the their complete line of mobile capabilities  The Nexus 4 is a stunning mix of form and capabilities provided by Google’s most recent Android partner, LG. The Nexus 7 has been updated by Google and Asus to offer more storage (16/32GB models) as well as a HSDPA+ modem. Google released details on the Nexus 10, a ten-inch tablet with a high-resolution 2560×1600 pixel display, powered by Samsung’s most recent silicon. I wrote recently about the new Google Chromebook, and I think it still deserves mention in this article, because between the four devices, Google has created a powerful competitor in the key mobile markets; smartphone, 7″ tablet, 10″ tablet, and ultrabook. As well, as their ecosystem grows, the cross-device capabilities are ever increasing.

The Nexus 4

LG recently released their Optimus G line of smartphones, and the Nexus 4 is a version of those. LG and Google have included 2GB of RAM, to improve the user experience, as well as a quad-core processor that will offer a huge amount of processing power for future games and applications. The screen on the Nexus 4 is a 720p IPS+ LCD that should offer amazing pictures. LG has included a 2100mAh battery that, paired with Android 4.2, ought to offer a reasonable battery life. Some noticable capabilites left out are CDMA and LTE radios. This will be sure to alienate over 50% of the US smartphone base (and the lack of LTE might alienate a further group). As someone who has used CDMA/LTE/HSDPA+ radios myself, I find that the battery savings and comparative speed of HSDPA+ often outweigh the need for LTE. CDMA is a lame technology, that should be phased out as soon as possible. Another technology that was not discussed was MHL, or the ability for the Nexus 4 to output video. While Android 4.2 comes with wireless display technologies, most users will have the cables, etc, that are HDMI, and that’s what they’d prefer. At $299 and $349 for 8/16GB, the Nexus 4 competes not only on capability but pricing with any smartphone out there (I would strongly recommend the 16GB, because you will find yourself filling up the 8GB model in no time). Lastly, one of my disappointments with the iPhone 5 was the lack of wireless charging. Wireless charging is cool, plain and simple, the Palm Pre offered it years ago, but manufacturers have not adopted it in full force. Well Starbucks is, and with a single wireless charging standard, we can all charge our devices, well anywhere. The Nexus 4 is the first major Android device to come with wireless charging out of the box, and surely will not be the last.

The New Nexus 7

I am a huge Nexus 7 fan, and I’ve been using it both for play and work. The form factor is perfect for couch surfing, but the display is large enough to type documents (especially in Google Drive). I have the 8GB model, and find myself often having to delete apps as I have filled up the device’s storage. By offering more memory, for less (16GB for $199, 32GB for $249 and 32GB with HSDPA+ for $299) Google is offering a strong competitor to anything Apple or Amazon offers. Some people insist on having mobile web access in their tablets, yet I prefer a solid hotspot and a smartphone with tether access.

The Nexus 10

While the rumors swirled surrounding the Nexus 4 for a long time, the Nexus 10 has only been rumored for a short while. The Samsung dual-core Exynos processor is the same one in the new Chromebook, and is more than powerful enough to drive it’s amazing 2560×1600 pixel display. It is priced at $399/499 for 16/32GB formats. The resolution might actually be a little excessive, but it appears Google and Samsung were obstinate in out-”retina”ing Apple. The Nexus 10 will offer an unparalleled ten-inch Android experience, in speed and capability, at a price point that undercuts both Apple competitors. The iPad 4 16GB WiFi model is $499, while the iPad 2 16GB WiFi (with a non-HD screen and 2 year old processor) is $399. The Nexus 10 offers double the storage and more pixels for same cost of the iPad 4. The new Nexus 10 is ready to compete with the iPad.

The new Samsung Chromebook

Google’s latest Chromebook is ARM-powered, it is thin, light and speedy. It offers you the web, and not much more. However, it is clearly aimed at the mobile business crowd. It weighs only ounces more than the incumbent ultrabook, the MacBook Air, and can compete on that stage, if only expected to do a few simple things. For desktop publishing, streaming music and video, the Chromebook will be good enough, and with its place as the most purchased laptop from Amazon, ever, developer support for the Chrome web store will be forthcoming.

The Google Ecosystem as a whole

While Google has been steadily building their Android and Chrome ecosystem, they have never released as compelling and strong a coterie of products at one time in the past. Google allows you to access all of your media from any device. Google Play Music allows you to get your music on every device in the mix. Google Drive allows you to start a document, presentation or spreadsheet on one device, finish it on another, and collaborate instantly with others. Google’s ecosystem allows you to “hangout” with any other Google+ user, to video chat and collaborate. Google’s Drive is also a place to store your files, with the purchase of some devices you will get 100GB free storage as well. With this portfolio, Google has excellent devices for both work and play, in a unified ecosystem that brings the full suite of Google applications for the user to exploit. This product line is Google’s step forward, the budget computing ecosystem which you can fully outfit a user for between $1000 and $1500. For less than the price of a MacBook Air, or almost any ultrabook, you can outfit an employee with a smartphone, a tablet, and a laptop good enough for most work needs.

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More Stories By Bob Gourley

Bob Gourley, former CTO of the Defense Intelligence Agency (DIA), is Founder and CTO of Crucial Point LLC, a technology research and advisory firm providing fact based technology reviews in support of venture capital, private equity and emerging technology firms. He has extensive industry experience in intelligence and security and was awarded an intelligence community meritorious achievement award by AFCEA in 2008, and has also been recognized as an Infoworld Top 25 CTO and as one of the most fascinating communicators in Government IT by GovFresh.