All posts by Pallab De

Pallab De is a blogger from India who has a soft spot for anything techie. He loves trying out new software and spends most of his day breaking and fixing his PC. Pallab loves participating in the social web; he has been active in technology forums since he was a teenager and is an active user of both twitter (@indyan) and facebook .

The Notion Ink Adam Fiasco Worsens: Why I Am Not Pre-Ordering, and You Shouldn’t Too

Notion Ink’s Adam was expected by many to be the dream tablet – a tablet that will successfully marry iPad’s elegance and usability with Android’s flexibility. Critiques questioned the ability of a startup with little experience to pull off such grand plans, while others, including me, hoped that Notion Ink might just have what it takes to succeed.

Notion-Ink-Adam

After a long delay, Notion Ink finally opened pre-orders for Adam yesterday. However, things have gone rapidly downhill since then. It’s been one disaster after another. Keith discussed some of the issues raised by Android Police and others. However, that’s not all that bothers me. Some of the other factors raising eyebrows and causing suspicion are:

  1. As pointed out by PhanDroid, NI takes your money even without asking for a shipping address. This has now been fixed, and was possibly an oversight. However, how many oversights can one ignore from a company that is launching an international product that costs around about half a thousand bucks (depends on the model).
  2. We had earlier pointed out the lack of any real pictures or videos of Adam. Once again, it’s possible that this is just a marketing strategy gone wrong. Notion Ink had been building up hype by slowly unveiling the product, and Rohan probably thought that holding back the hands-on videos will probably help sustain the air of mystery. The trouble is that you can’t just expect people to shell out money in blind-faith, especially when you are the new kid in town.

    Notion Ink has now stated that an in-depth video will be released on December 18. The justification being offered is that NI wanted to hold back videos and photos of the actual product, as they intended to demo it at CES 2011. That is a pretty flimsy logic, and also brings me to the third caveat.

  3. Although Notion Ink claims that they will be demoing Adam at the CES, as pointed out by Android Police, they aren’t anywhere to be found in the official CES exhibitors list.

    It’s also worth mentioning that, Adam is yet to receive a formal approval from the FCC. Without that, Notion Ink can’t even ship it to the US. Obviously, NI is confident that Adam will soon be approved. However, this only adds another element of uncertainty to the entire equation.

    Even if all of this is just a series of massive but honest mistakes by Notion Ink, and Adam is not an elaborate scam, I don’t think I can recommend Adam any longer. The main culprit being the refund and return policy.

  4. There is a lot that can go wrong with electronic gadgets, and that is why warranty and return policies are extremely important. Unlike its competition (Apple and Samsung), Notion Ink doesn’t have established retail presence or support centers spread across the globe. Hence, if something goes wrong, you will have to simply ship your device to Notion Ink. This is not an ideal scenario, but could have been acceptable. The trouble is that Notion Ink wants you to bear most of the charges, as a result of which, you will end up paying a hefty amount, even during the warranty period. Here are the relevant sections from the ToS.

    In case your products needs a physical inspection or repair, you need to ship the product with return shipping paid to Notion Ink’s International Service Centre’s along with an transaction number of 9USD payment made on Notion Ink Website as International Service Assistance Fees.

I hope that I am wrong and Notion Ink succeeds. I really do. However, at this moment things are looking bleak. I still believe that the device is real. However, we have to remember that Notion Ink is a new startup without any proven track record. There is uncertainty regarding how they are sourcing the hardware for the device and its quality. There are simply too many unknowns at this moment. It’s obvious that a lot of people are willing to give Notion Ink a chance – the Pixel Qi editions were sold out within hours. Unfortunately, I can no longer be among those recommending Adam.

Google Chrome Is Now Twice As Fast As Before, Thanks to Crankshaft

A couple of years back, Google kick-started the speed race among browsers with Chrome’s superlative performance. The very first release of Chrome blew everyone away with its V8 JavaScript engine, which was miles ahead of the competition. Now that some of the other competitors like Opera have caught up (and perhaps surpassed Chrome), Google is doing it again.

A short while back, Sundar Pichai, VP of Product Management, unveiled Crankshaft – a new compilation infrastructure for V8. Judging from the benchmark results posted at the Chromium blog, it won’t be an understatement to say that Crankshaft dramatically improves Chrome’s JavaScript rendering speed.

Google-Chrome-Crankshaft-Benchmark

Google used its own V8 benchmark, in which Chrome has traditionally done well. They didn’t disclose how Chrome with Crankshaft stands up to its competition. However, judging from the above graph, it should comfortably outperform everyone including Firefox 4, Opera 11 and Safari 5.

Google-Chrome-Speed-Improvements

Chrome with Crankshaft is currently available from the bleeding edge repository and in canary releases. Try them if you are feeling adventurous.

Chrome started the latest round of speed wars, and Crankshaft will once again allow it to establish its supremacy. While Firefox and Internet Explorer are stills struggling to catch up with Chrome’s current performance, with Crankshaft, Chrome just took it to the next level. Well done Google!

Adam Clears FCC Inspection, Hints at Gingerbread Launch Date

Adam, the highly anticipated and heavily delayed Android based tablet from India’s Notion Ink, has cleared FCC testing, confirmed Notion Ink’s CEO, Rohan Shravan. He also revealed on the official blog that all the applications being developed for Adam are now in beta, and the payment gateway for the website has been setup. Pre-orders are expected to begin soon.

Notion-Ink-Adam

Additionally, tucked away in Shravan’s post, is a curious teaser about December 6 being a big day for Android.

6th December is another big day for Android and you will find out how fast Notion Ink can work. (Eden is extremely compatible with 2.3)

To us, this seems to be a clear hint that Android 2.3 or Gingerbread will be launched in a couple of days. Although Google hasn’t been forthcoming about the improvements introduced in Gingerbread, we do know for a fact that the user interface has been tweaked and refined. The teaser also indicates that the Adam will be getting Gingerbread at some point in the future (probably pretty soon), which should endear it to Android enthusiasts.

LastPass Acquires Xmarks, Promises to give it a Business Model

XmarksXmarks, the popular cross-browser bookmark synchronization tool, has announced that it has been acquired by LastPass, bringing to end months of speculation about Xmarks’ future.

Towards the end of September, Xmarks had announced that it will be shutting down due to its failure to identify a viable business model. The announcement had triggered an outcry from its users, who blamed the company for not even trying. Taken aback by the outpouring of support from users – as many as 30,000 pledged to pay for a premium version of the service, Xmarks soon changed its stance. The pledge of financial support from users also helped the startup gain the attention of multiple potential buyers.

LastPass is also one of our favorites, and we have lauded the cloud based password and identity management tool on multiple occasions in the past. Like LastPass, the core functionality of Xmarks will remain available for free. However, a premium offering, which will include iPhone and Android apps among other things, will be available for $12 per year. Users looking to take advantage of both of these excellent services can opt for the combined subscription at $20 per year.

For now, LastPass and Xmarks will continue to operate individually. They will have separate websites as well as separate downloads. However, in the future, they might be combined into a single offering.

Opera Reaches 150 Million Users, Celebrates it in Style

A couple of months back, Opera Software had disclosed that it has more than 140 million users. Hence, it comes as no surprise that the creative browser maker from Norway is now celebrating 150 million users. A majority of the users are from Opera Mini, which offers a fully functional tabbed browsing experience on low-end handsets and feature phones. Opera for Desktop is the other significant contributor with a little over fifty million users. Opera is available on a wide range of devices including the Nintendo Wii, Nintendo DS, several connected televisions, and of course on smartphones (Opera Mini and Opera Mobile).

Opera-150-Million-Users

About a week back, we had lauded Opera for their creative marketing efforts. In the recent past they have managed to impress Reddit (twice!), besides creating a rather popular humorous parody. Keeping up their impressive track record, Opera Software is announcing this milestone by leaking its co-founder’s inbox. Head over to opera.com/portal/jvt/ to get a sneak peek at Jon von Tetzchner’s faux inbox. It’s full of humorous and interesting fake conversations involving Tetzchner. Besides easter eggs for Opera community members, it also contains a hat-tip to Reddit.

Angry Birds Seasons (Christmas Edition) for Android Released

We had earlier confirmed that the special Christmas Edition of Angry Birds will indeed be available on Android (along with the iPad and iPhone versions). We had expected Rovio to release the game on the Angry Birds Day (Dec 11). However, they have done better than that, and Angry Birds Seasons is now available in the Android Market.

Angry-Birds-Christmas-Edition-Android

Angry Birds Seasons includes 25 special Christmas themed levels to kill time as you wait for Christmas. A new level will be unlocked every day, until Christmas. As a surprise gift, Rovio has also tucked in the Halloween themed levels that Android users had missed out on.

Angry-Birds-Christmas-Edition-Android-Gameplay

As mentioned earlier, Angry Birds Christmas edition is also planned for the iPad and the iPhone. The App Store’s verification process is the most likely culprit for the delay in the release of the iOS version. Rovio has also reaffirmed that they will be releasing a light-weight version for lesser Android phones and an ad-free version.

Angry Birds Seasons for Android is also a free download. You can grab it directly from the Market or through AppBrain.

European Union Launches Antitrust Investigation against Google, Google Responds

GoogleGoogle’s “Do no Evil” mantra has come under the scanner over the past few years as it has evolved from a search company to a technology giant. Now, the European Union has launched an antitrust investigation against Google to examine allegations that it gives unfair preference to its services over services from other (vertical) search providers. Foundem, (Microsoft-owned) Ciao, Justice.fr are the competitors who complained to the EU.

The European Union intends to analyses several aspects, including search engine results page rank of third party services, the possibility of advertisements from competition being blocked for certain keywords, and also whether it is possible to export advertising campaign data to competing platforms.

Google has defended its policies in a blog article. “At Google, we’ve always focused on putting the user first by providing the best possible answers as quickly as possible”, emphasized the search engine giant.

If Google is found to have engaged in anti-competitive behavior, then it might be in serious trouble as the European Union tends to be extremely serious about ensuring free and fair competition. Nevertheless, in my opinion, it’s unlikely that Google would have purposefully violated EU norms. They have been under scrutiny over the recent past, and they had to know that something like this is in the pipe. It would have been foolish to risk stringent regulations and massive fines by baiting the European Union.

Rumor: iPad 2 Camera Manufacturer Selected

AppleAlong with Microsoft’s Kinect, the iPad is quite possibly the most popular consumer electronic device of the year. It kick started an entire new segment virtually on its own. Over the past few months, we have seen dozens of tablets being launched by both big and small companies. Unfortunately, none of them have managed to offer strong competition to the iPad.

While others are busy playing catchup, Apple is already working on the iPad’s successor. Rumors about the iPad 2 have already begun to trickle in, mostly via Digitimes and other Chinese news sources. After disclosing that the successor to the highly successful iPad will feature a camera as well as Facetime support, Digitimes has also dug up the name of the manufacturer.

Largan Precision, a Chinese lens manufacturer, which also supplies lenses for the 5 megapixel camera for the iPhone, is the rumored manufacturer of iPad’s camera. The iPad 2 is expected to be launched in Q1 2011.

Skype Video Chat Coming to Facebook?

Facebook A couple of months back, there were rumors suggesting that deep integration of Facebook and Skype was on the cards. Soon after, Skype introduced Facebook integration in its client. Now it appears that Facebook is also preparing to integrate Skype.

AllFacebook is reporting that a Facebook app developer has discovered the existence of code hinting at Skype integration. Apparently, Facebook is bucket testing this feature, which will be based on the Skype SDK. Tal Alter, the developer who was the first to notice this, wrote in his blog, “The object, which is simply called VideoChat, appears to have everything needed to introduce video chatting functionality.” It is expected that once launched, Skype users will be able to receive and initiate video calls directly from Facebook.

Celebrities Quit Twitter and Facebook for Charity

Lady-Gaga Several megastars including Lady Gaga, Justin Timberlake and Usher are temporarily quitting Facebook and Twitter to raise money for Grammy winning singer Alicia Keys’ Keep a Child Alive (KCA) charity ahead of the World Aids Day. Keep a Child Alive aids families affected by HIV/AIDs in India and Africa. It has six main treatment sites located in Kenya, Ethiopia, South Africa, Uganda, Rwanda, and India. Keys is the global ambassador of KCA.

All the participating celebrities have recorded their last tweet and testament. Leigh Blake, the president and co-founder of Keep a Child Alive, explained, “We’re trying to sort of make the remark: ‘Why do we care so much about the death of one celebrity as opposed to millions and millions of people dying in the place that we’re all from?'”

The celebrities will return to the social networks once $1 million has been raised. Lady Gaga is expected to make a significant impact thanks to her massive social base (nearly 24 million Facebook fans and more than 7 million Twitter followers). However, as Keys explained, “It just doesn’t have to be just because you’re a celebrity or something like that. It can be anybody.”