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 .

Early Build of Windows Blue Leaks

Windows Blue, the successor to Windows 8, which is expected to be released towards the tail end of this year, made an early appearance yesterday in the form of a leaked interim build. The leaked build is a 32 bit edition of Windows Blue with a build id of 9364.0.

Since its appearance, it has been thoroughly dissected by several Microsoft watchers, including the likes of WinSuperSite and The Verge. As anticipated, Windows Blue is an incremental update, rather than a major overhaul as Windows 8 was. It builds upon the foundation laid by Windows 8, and tries to alleviate some of the major pain points.

Windows-Blue-Split-Screen

Improved Multi-tasking
For me, the biggest enhancement is the new half-screen app snapping. The Metro UI is simply too inhibiting on larger form factors (especially on PCs) because it only allows 1 app to be in the foreground at a time. There is an app-snapping feature, but that only allows the second app to run in a mini-mode within a quarter of the screen. In Windows Blue, you can run two apps side by side in a 50/50 screen sharing mode. In fact, Blue supports as many as four apps side-by side.

Enhanced Metro Settings
One of the biggest problems with Windows 8 is its split personality. No where is the half hazard division between Classic and Modern UI more apparent than the Settings. While the Modern UI has its own PC Settings app, it’s woefully inadequate. Most crucial settings are present only in the classic Control Panel. Windows Blue takes a step forward by adding several more options to the new PC Settings app.

Enhanced Charms
Microsoft has added two new options to the Charms menu. The Share charms has received a new screenshot option for quickly capturing a screenshot and sharing it, while the Devices charm has been augmented with a play option.

Windows-Blue-2

Enhanced Start Screen
Windows Blue adds two new Tiles to the start screen – the first one is minuscule, while the second one is oversized. Additionally, Windows Blue prevents accidental modification of the Start screen by locking it down. You need to specifically select the Customize option to be able to modify the layout.

And More
There are several other changes including new apps (Alarms, Calculate, Sound Recorder, and Movie Moments), improved SkyDrive Modern UI app, Internet Explorer 11, and new gestures.

Windows Blue is a step in the right direction. It attempts to solve some of the biggest issues with Windows 8. However, Microsoft still has some distance to travel. Modern UI is growing up, but still isn’t mature enough to stand on its own. Windows Blue will be a cheap (possibly even free) upgrade for existing Windows 8 user, which is expected to be released later this year.

[ Images via The Verge ]

A Location Sharing App with an Unfortunate Name Goes Viral in Brazil

A couple of days back, a small Spanish firm called Makalu Interactive launched a new location bookmarking app called Rego on the iTunes app store. Rego is a simple app which allows you to save places you have been to, along with associated notes and images. Although Rego is primarily designed to serve as your own personal journal of favorite and memorable places, it features smart social integration, which enables you to share selected places with your friends and family.

Rego-Location-Bookmarking-App

It’s not easy for a new app from a little known development firm to make it big. However, Rego has gotten off to a great start. Soon after its launch, Rego was added to the “New and Recommended” section by Apple, which undoubtedly helped the freemium app. Rego requires a $0.99 in-app purchase to remove the 10 places and 1 photo filter limitation present in the free version. However, the app has gone viral in Brazil, largely due to an unfortunate co-incidence. I’ll let Malaku’s director Matt Henderson explain exactly why it went viral.

Rego in Portuguese means ‘butt crack’. With that bit of info in mind, Rego’s app description makes for a hilarious read. Here’s a sampler — “Rego’s private. Nobody sees what you add to Rego.” No wonder then that Gizmodo Brazil had a field day with it’s “not hands-on” review of Rego. To its credit, Makalu intends to capitalize on its unexpected popularity in Brazil by releasing a Portuguese translation of its location bookmarking app soon.

[ Download Rego ]

Ebay India Census 2012: A Look Into the State of E-commerce

Ebay has released its 2012 census, which offers a unique perspective at the state of e-commerce in India. Since, eBay sells pretty much everything under the sun, it’s in an unique position to offer us a glimpse at what Indians are buying and selling. You might be aware that a lot of youths are buying t-shirts and gadgets online, but did you know that every two minutes one note or coin is sold on eBay?

State-of-Ecommerce-in-India

Maharashtra grabbed the top spot in terms of buying and selling stuff online, largely due to Mumbai, which is most active city on eBay India. Other cities in the top ten were Dehi, Jaipur, Bengaluru, Chennai, Hyderabad, Ahmedabad, Kolkata, Chandigarh, and Pune. While mobile phones, watches, fragrances, and apparel dominated the list of products sold and bought, most cities had one or two surprise entries.

  • Delhi sold a lot of Indian notes, while Mumbai sold loads of Indian stamps. Mumbai also bought plenty of British India coins, and imported British Colonial Stamps. Chinese stamps are #1 on the list of goods imported by Chennai residents. Similarly, Hyderabad is fascinated with Malaysian coins.
  • Jaipur, the capital of the desert state Rajasthan, sold loads of room heaters.
  • Delhi bought the most chocolates, while Bengaluru exported the most Yoga videos. Kolkatans on the other hand are in love with Tibetian collectibles.
  • Top brands in India were Samsung, Apple, Sony, and Nokia respectively.

Head over to shopping.ebay.in/census to glance at the state of e-commerce in India.

Blackberry 10 World App Store Pulls in 100,000 Apps Before US Launch

BlackBerry-10 The jury is still out on the BlackBerry 10; however, the struggling Canadian phone manufacturer is making good strides in filling up its app store. The BlackBerry World now has more than 100,000 apps, with 30,000 new apps being added over the past seven weeks.

“The response to the BlackBerry 10 platform and applications has been outstanding. Customers are thrilled with the applications already available, and the catalog just keeps growing, now with more than 100,000 apps,” said Martyn Mallick, Vice President, Global Alliances at BlackBerry. “Top brands and application providers are joining us every day and are seeing the benefits of being early supporters of the new platform. We constantly hear from developers that the BlackBerry 10 tools are easy to build with and that we provide opportunities for app differentiation that they do not see on other platforms.”

The good news for BlackBerry is that it has managed to persuade some of the most popular mobile app developers to develop apps for its new operating system. Some of the big names that BlackBerry is touting are 8tracks, Angry Birds Star Wars, ATP World Tour Live, BBC Top Gear News, Bloomberg Anywhere, CBS Sports, Delta Air Lines, F1 2013 Timing App CP, Facebook, Foursquare, Jetpack Joyride, Keek, LinkedIn, Navita Translator, Need for Speed, NHL GameCenter, N.O.V.A. 3, The New York Times, PressReader, Slacker, Songza, Twitter, UFC, USA TODAY, Waze, WhatsApp, and Zara. Apps from Amazon Kindle, OpenTable and The Wall Street Journal will launch today, while apps from CNN, The Daily Show Headlines, eBay, eMusic, Maxim, MLB at Bat, MTV News, Pageonce, PGA, Rdio, Skype, Soundhound and Viber will be added in the coming weeks.

Having a vibrant and rich app store is critical for the success of any platform. BlackBerry seems to have gotten off to a good start. However, BlackBerry World still has a long way to go before it can even think of competing with Android and iOS app stores. While reaching the hundred thousand mark even before launching in several key markets is impressive, it’s worth keeping in mind that a significant chunk of the 100,000 apps are Android ports created using the BlackBerry Packager. These apps are generally fully functional, but they don’t leverage the unique strengths of the new BB 10 platform, and feel out of place visually.

Google Now Might be Coming to iOS

Just a day after we learnt that Google Now is making its way to the Chrome browser and OS, Engadget is reporting that Google is also working on porting its Siri challenger to the iOS. Apparently, a short promo video featuring Google Now for iOS appeared yesterday on YouTube. The clip was quickly pulled down, but not before several enterprising viewers managed to save a copy. Here’s one of the many such copies currently available on YouTube.

While we can not vouch for the veracity of the video, it does look pretty convincing. Even the voice actor seems to be the same as the original Google Now announcement video. Due to restrictions imposed by Apple, Google will not be able to integrate its personal assistant into the system in a manner Siri is on the iOS. Instead, Google Now will live inside the Google Search app, which already features voice recognition. A quick swipe up from the main screen will bring up the Google Now interface.

The big question is how many iOS users, who already have the charming and cute Siri, will find a need for Google Now. Google’s personal assistant app does have its own set of advantages including the ability to offer neat nuggets of information pre-emptively through several pre-defined cards. It might also be compatible with a wider range of iOS devices than Siri, which only supports iOS 5 and later. However, Google will not be able to offer the deep system level integration that Siri features. That being said, there is clearly a segment of iPhone users that want Google Now, as evident from the popularity of the NowNow mod for jailbroken iPhones.

Google Now Coming to Chrome Browser and OS

François Beaufort, a Google Chrome user from France, has spotted signs of impending arrival of Google Now in the Chrome browser. In the latest build of Chromium, the Google Now component extension can be enabled from chrome://flags. Before you get too excited, it’s worth pointing out that ordinary folks can’t play with it yet, since the extension requires Google Now server URL, which is yet to be uncovered.

Google Now is a personal assistant built on top of Google Search that uses natural language processing to answer questions. Additionally, it also pulls information from various Google services to highlight information it believes might be useful for the user. It was first introduced in Android 4.1 (Jelly Bean), and has since then been updated several times by Google.

Google-Now-Chrome-Browser-OS

I am not convinced about the utility of Google Now as just a Chrome browser extension, but it does make some sense for Chrome OS, in which everything is done from the browser. In fact, it’s very much possible that Google might be planning to add new cards to Google Now to make it more appealing for desktop users. For now, it appears that Google Now will be available only on Chrome browser for Windows, and Chrome OS.

LG’s New M-Disk Ready Drive Can Write DVDs That Last up to 1000 Years

Some things in life are just too precious to forget and move on. Your marriage video, the picture of your child walking for the first time, or his first day in school. These are memories that you can’t afford to lose. Unfortunately, keeping your memories safe can require much more work than apparent at first glance. All storage devices have a shelf life. For a hard drive it’s about five years, while for a DVD it’s about 8 years. Cloud storage options might seem more tempting, but they are only good for as long as the service lasts. Millenniata, an Utah based digital storage company, believes that it has the perfect solution.

M-Disc-Long-Lasting-DVD-Technology

Millenniata has developed a storage technology that promises to permanently etch data onto the write layer of the disc for use anytime and for generations to come without any data loss. Millenniata’s M-Disc is essentially a specially manufactured DVD with four separate layers constructed of organic, synthetic materials. Data is physically engraved into a patented rock-like layer that is resistant to light, temperature, humidity, and more.

LG-M-Disk-Long-Lasting-DVD-Drive

LG has tied up with Millenniata to launch M-Ready Drives that can write data onto M-Discs. Since M-Discs are essentially DVDs, once written, they can be read in most standard DVD and Blu-Ray drives. LG is launching its Super Multi DVD Writer in India for Rs. 2,000. I’m still waiting for clarification on how LG intends to sell M-Disc drives in India. They are currently available on Millenniata’s website at $30 for 10 discs before adding shipping costs and taxes. This equates to about Rs. 162 for each disc.

LG-M-Disk-Long-Lasting-DVD-Writer

Google Chrome for Android to Get Opera Turbo Like Data Compression Abilities

Google Chrome’s rise has been nothing short of spectacular. While Google’s deep pocket and marketing muscle has undoubtedly helped, it will be unfair to deny that Chrome deserves its popularity. Right from the beginning, it was clear that the folks behind Chrome knew what they were doing. Chrome boasted of a host of innovations including a minimalistic user interface, super fast JavaScript engine, and per-tab processes. However, it was also smart enough to take inspiration from the best aspects of different browsers. It copied various features from Opera including the ability to resume previous browsing session, restoring closed tabs, and visual bookmarks on the new tab page. Staying true to its tradition, Chrome is aping another popular Opera feature, and eliminating one of biggest advantages of using Opera on mobile phones.

The new feature that Chrome has its sights on is Opera Turbo. When Opera Turbo is enabled all HTTP traffic is redirected through Opera’s servers where text and images are compressed. The browser sitting on your system downloads this compressed data, instead of loading the full page. While image compression can reduce quality and the re-routing can increase latency, on slower connections this can result in significant speed improvements. If you are on a metered connection that is billed according to the data usage, this will even save you money by reducing the amount of data downloaded. In the recently released Opera for Android, the veteran browser firm re-branded Turbo as Off-road mode and gave it a more prominent spot in the user interface. Now, Google has announced that Chrome for Android will also incorporate a similar feature in the near future.

Google-Chrome-Data-Compression-Proxy

In fact, if you are on the beta channel, you can already try out this new feature. Just open up chrome://flags in your browser and select Enable Data Compression Proxy. Google is using the open-source PageSpeed libraries, which are specifically tuned for the Chrome for Android, to perform the compression. All images will be automatically converted to Google’s WebP image format. Additionally, Google is also hoping to reduce latency by using its own SPDY protocol for communications between the proxy server and your browser. You can keep a tab on the bandwidth savings by opening the bandwidth section of chrome://net-internals.

Google-Chrome-Data-Compression-Proxy-Bandwidth-Savings

To be fair, Opera didn’t exactly invent the data compression proxy feature. Before it embedded Turbo, it had tied up with a company called Slipstream, which provided a similar compression service. However, enabling this feature required purchasing a subscription. And, even before this, there were companies like ONSPEED providing similar services to users through third-party software. However, Opera undoubtedly made the feature mainstream. It was also the first company that I am aware of to offer it for free. Opera took the concept to the next level with Opera Mini, in which not only were the resources compressed, but the entire web page was also rendered on the remote server. A static representation (OBML) was sent back to the browser. It’s important to note that the Turbo feature in Opera Mobile and Opera Desktop, and Opera Mini are different. Remote rendering in Opera Mini allows it to run on extremely low-end phones, but also prevents it from working with modern dynamic websites. Chrome’s new compression technology will be similar to Turbo in Opera Mobile (now called Off-road) and not Opera Mini.

First Beta of Opera browser for Android with Webkit Impresses

Lately, Opera Software has been in the news a lot, but, most of it hasn’t been about new product launches. It kicked off a firestorm of debate on the interwebs with its decision to ditch its own rendering engine in favor of Chromium flavored Webkit, it raised eyebrows by acquiring Skyfire, and it continued to focus on new sources of revenue by promoting innovative initiatives like the Opera Web Pass. Today, however, it has something new for its fans.

The Norwegian browser developer has released the first beta of Opera browser for Android, which it touts as the “result of a passion for design combined with 17 years’ worth of know-how and innovation”. As you might have noticed, Opera has dropped the word ‘Mobile’ from its name. With the new name, Opera Software is following in the footsteps of Google and Mozilla, and is indicating that the mobile browser is no less competent than its desktop counterpart. It also signifies the new beginning of Opera’s efforts in the mobile landscape.

Opera browser for Android looks and feels like an entirely different beast. It bares little resemblance to Opera Mini or Mobile, having taken oodles of design cues from both iOS and Android’s Holo design conventions. The new tab page now consists of three distinct sections – History, Speed Dials, and Discover. As always, the speed dial feature shows visual bookmarks of your favorite and most accessed websites; but, now, it is also supports folders and custom titles. The discover feature showcases popular and interesting content from your selected region and topics.

Opera-Android-Webkit-Off-Road-Mode
Opera for Android: Off-Road Mode

Many of the existing features, including the neat download manager, find-in-page, private browsing, and user-agent changer are still present. Opera Turbo also made it through. However, it is now being called the Off-Road mode. Once you enter this mode, your webpages are routed through Opera’s servers where they are compressed to save bandwidth and also speed up surfing on slower networks. The new user interface prominently highlights the data savings that you have achieved through the Off-road mode. Another handy feature is ‘Save for Later’, which can save entire webpages so that you can continue reading long articles on flights without Wi-Fi. The biggest missing feature is Opera Link. Currently, the only way to access your saved speed dials, bookmarks, and notes is through the web interface.

Opera-Android-Webkit-New-Design
Opera for Android: Redesigned Interface

I haven’t benchmarked the new browser, but it feels fast and snappy (not that Opera ever felt slow). Cold start times have noticeably improved, but Opera still seems to be taking a second or so more than Chrome. Panning and zooming is still fast and fluid, but the engine change seems to have nuked Opera’s ability to reflow text.

Opera for Android supports Gingerbread (Android 2.3) and above. As Opera Software points out, this is important as 45% of Android users are still on Gingerbread. Needless to say, this is an early build, and might be unstable or might not work at all. But, as far as first impressions go, I am impressed.

[ Download Opera for Android Beta ]

Opera Co-Founder Jon von Tetzchner Expresses Disappointment with Current Direction

Opera Software’s co-founder and ex-CEO, Jon Stephenson von Tetzchner, has finally broken his silence. Speaking to ComputerWorld, Tetzchner revealed his disappointment at both the direction Opera Software is taking and how it is being managed.

Tetzchner co-founded Opera with Geir Ivarsøy in 1995, and was the Chief Operating Officer until he stepped down on January 5, 2010. He continued to be associated with the company as strategic advisor, but parted ways on June 24, 2011. In his departure mail, he wrote, “It has become clear that The Board, Management and I do not share the same values and we do not have the same opinions on how to keep evolving Opera”.

Opera-Co-Founder-Jon-TetzchnerTetzchner was widely regarded as a man of ideals, and the person responsible for establishing Opera’s work culture and corporate values. He believed in the open web, hated software patents, and believed in caring for his employees. He was reported to be in favor of aggressively fighting to keep Opera Software independent and uncompromised. Unfortunately, the board and the shareholders didn’t always agree with him. Since his departure, Opera has streamlined itself on numerous occasions, sometimes shutting down entire offices. Opera has also invested more heavily in the advertising business. And most recently, Opera decided to ditch its rendering engine in favor of Chromium. His departure has led to a steady stream of rumors that Opera Software might be about to be acquired. The fact that he sold off a large chunk of his shares in the company for between 180 and 200 million NOK (about 32-35 million USD) over the past few months has only strengthened the rumors.

Under Lars Boilesen, Opera has made record profits, grown its mobile user base at a phenomenal pace, and expanded into new segments. However, under Boilesen, Opera has also lost its innovative edge. According to reports, Opera Software has also lost a lot of its atmosphere and culture. Wilhelm JoysAndersen, who used to manage Opera’s core testing team before quitting last year alleged in a post on Hacker News that employee morale is at rock bottom. No wonder then that Tetzchner remarked, “I must admit that I think it’s sad to see what happens with Opera”.

Addressing the reports of mistreatment of employees, Tetzchner went on to say, “Not only do I disagree with the strategic direction management is taking now, but I’m also sad about how the company is treating its employees”. “There must be good reasons to let people go. I think an atmosphere where so many must go, or stop more or less voluntarily, is unfortunate for both innovation and employees. This is very far from what I stood for. The employees are a vital resource and has been critical of the company has achieved.”

He also addressed the lack of innovation. “When competition increases, I believe one must increase his efforts, not reduce it”. As I noted in my previous article, since Tetzchner’s resignation, many influential and well-known developers have left the company to work for Google and Mozilla among others. Opera’s ex-CEO believes that a reduced focus on product innovation and core technologies is pushing talent out of Opera.

When asked if he misses being a part of the Opera management, Tetzchner candidly said, ” I miss Opera as a company and I miss the staff. But the direction the company now runs did not fit me”. Expanding on what he wrote in his parting email, he revealed a longstanding discord between shareholders and sections of the management including him. Tetzchner preferred to build the company stone by stone to achieve organic growth. Whereas shareholders preferred to prep the company for sale through acquisitions and cost reductions.

Note: Original Norwegian quotes have been translated with the aid of Google Translate.

Internet Explorer 10 Now Available for Windows 7

Internet-Explorer-10Internet Explorer 10 is finally ready for Windows 7. Exactly four months after IE 10 officially debuted with Microsoft’s new Windows 8 operating system, Microsoft has managed to get its browser ready for Windows 7 users. Unfortunately, if you are still on Vista or XP, you are out of luck. Microsoft is no longer interested in supporting you. Of course, there are plenty of alternatives, each of which works flawlessly even on the more than a decade old Windows XP.

One of the things that kept Microsoft busy while making Internet Explorer 10 compatible with Windows 7 was touch API support. In fact, ArsTechnica is reporting that installing Internet Explorer 10 on Windows 7 requires the installation of a platform update that brings Windows 7’s version of these APIs in line with Windows 8. Hardware acceleration using Direct2D and DirectWrite is also in. Other features Microsoft is touting include 60% increase in supported modern web standards, 20% improvement in rendering speed, and improved security, privacy and reliability.

If you installed the preview release, Internet Explorer 10 will be marked as an important update for you, otherwise it will be an optional update. However, Microsoft will be marking Internet Explorer 10 as an important update in more and more regions over the coming months. As per the default Windows Update settings, important updates are automatically downloaded, while optional updates aren’t.

[ Download Internet Explorer 10 ]

Opera Ties Up with Airtel to Enable Instant Internet Activation in India Through Web Pass

Just a few days back, Opera had revealed that its Web Pass initiative had gotten off to an impressive start in Malaysia. Now, it is hoping to replicate the same success story in India. The Norwegian browser maker, which itself has its roots in a telecom company, has tied up with Airtel to introduce its innovative Web Pass feature to India. “Access to the web is a universal right. Partnering with market leaders such as Airtel has offered us the opportunity to help lower the barriers to access the mobile web and empower more Indian users to get online,” said Lars Boilesen, CEO, Opera Software.

Opera-Web-Pass-Airtel

Opera Web Pass offers mobile users pay-as-you-go connections that can be activated instantly from the browser itself. It offers a cheap, on-demand, and instant connection to the World Wide Web to a wide section of the populace. For many of Opera’s users, the only way to go online is through their mobile phones. You can read more about how Opera Web Pass helped increase data usage on DiGi Telecommunications networks in Malaysia in my previous article.

Some of the plans that Airtel will be offering are:
i) An hour of Facebook for Rs. 10
ii) An hour of Twitter for Rs. 10
iii) An hour of internet usage for Rs. 20
iv) 24 hour unlimited internet subscription for Rs. 60

Additionally, a weekend surfing plan will also be available for unknown amount. An Opera spokesperson was unable to confirm if the plans were for 2G or 3G or both. All of these plans are billed by the duration of validity, instead of metrics like bandwidth and speed, which will make it simpler for the novice user to understand. Topping up doesn’t require any online payment system, and all purchases made are added to the user’s mobile bill.

LG Acquires webOS from HP, Will Use It in Smart TVs

Palm’s webOS has made another return from the graveyard. After being left at the mercy of the community for over a year by Hewlett-Packard, which had acquired Palm in 2010 for $1.2 billion, webOS has found a new home. LG has acquired webOS from HP for an undisclosed sum.

The Korean electronics giant isn’t planning on using the mobile OS in smartphones. Instead, it will be adapting it for use in its popular smart TV range. LG was reported to be eyeing webOS for quite a while, after deciding against using Google TV over fears of Google imposed restrictions on the design and interface. LG’s purchase also includes all patents and employees of the webOS Global Business Unit.

LG-Smart-TV

Skott Ahn, president and chief technology officer of LG Electronics Inc, remarked, “It creates a new path for LG to offer an intuitive user experience and Internet services across a range of consumer electronics devices”. It will be interesting to see how LG goes about porting an operating system designed for touch to the remote control operated big screen.

LG might not be the first name that pops into anyone’s mind when talking about smartphones, but they have a strong presence in the television market. While purchasing webOS outright is surprising, it’s not surprising that LG is looking to replace NetCast, its current smart TV platform. NetCast has served LG well, but it is showing signs of age, and with big names like Google and Apple preparing to double down on the smart TV market, LG needs to up its game. HP will also be happy to be able to get something in exchange of webOS. Palm’s webOS was once heralded as the brightest competitor to the iPhone’s operating system, but corporate inefficiency and idiocy never allowed it to realize its full potential. Even surviving as a smart TV platform is a sad fate for a genuinely innovative and intuitive operating system, but in LG’s hands, webOS will probably reach millions of more households than it ever did under its previous two owners.

Samsung HomeSync is an Android Jelly Bean Powered Set Top Box with 1 TB Storage

Samsung is expected to launch its flagship Android smartphone in an exclusive event on March 14. However, that doesn’t mean that it doesn’t have anything to show off at this year’s Mobile World Congress.

Besides unveiling the Galaxy Note 8.0, the Korean giant also quietly announced something called the HomeSync. HomeSync is a media streamer, which is in many ways identical to the Apple TV. It’s essentially an Android powered set top box that hooks up to your television.

Samsung-HomeSync

The HomeSync is powered by a 1.7 GHz dual-core processor of unknown make, 1 gigs of ram, and runs Android Jelly Bean (probably Android 4.1). It provides full access to the Play store, unlike many other similar products which only support apps that are optimized for the idiot box. HomeSync supports streaming of games, audio, and video from your Galaxy device to the TV wirelessly at full HD (1080p). The biggest draw of the Samsung HomeSync is its 1 TB storage that supports up to 8 different profiles, with password protection of content, and easy sharing.

The HomeSync is slated to go on sale in April 2013; however, Samsung provided no inputs on the expected market price.

Opera Mini and Mobile Continue Growing, Web Pass Gets off to a Good Start

OperaOpera Software has often highlighted Opera Mini as a browser that ‘connects the unconnected’. What they mean is that Opera Mini on mobile phones is often the only way a significant chunk of its users access the World Wide Web. Opera Mini is extremely popular in nations like India, Bangladesh, Brazil, Egypt, Malaysia, and Kenya, where PC penetration is low, but mobile phone penetration is extremely high. The reasons for this are obvious. Opera Mini works even on low-end phones, and is capable of rendering web pages that these phones would otherwise be unable to render. It also compresses web pages during the data transfer, thus increasing speed and reducing bandwidth consumption.

Putting two and two together, towards the end of 2012, Opera Software introduced a service called Web Pass. Web Pass offered mobile web surfers pay-as-you-go internet connections. Realizing that most people in developing nations don’t have means of online payment like Credit Cards, Opera tied up with mobile service providers to enable instant purchase that would be billed to the user’s mobile connection. Malaysia’s DiGi Telecommunications became Opera’s first partner, which allowed users to instantly purchase data packages. Pay as you go plans included cheap options like Facebook hourly pass (0.15 USD), as well as more full fledged data options like 24 hour internet packs (0.65 USD).

In this month’s State of the Mobile Web report, Opera Software zeroed in on its new Web Pass, and apprently it’s doing quite well. Some of the stats that Opera shared are:

  • Up to 52% of all Opera Web Passes in any given month were bought by returning customers.
  • By incentivizing use through a free Facebook hourly web pass for the entire month of January DiGi managed to increase the uptake of paid web passes significantly. This resulted in an average revenue increase of 56%, and a 65% increase of the average number of transactions per day, compared to the revenues before the promotion drive.
  • There has been a very low checkout-abandonment rate and an overall checkout success of more than 77% among users with sufficient funds.
    The most popular web pass is one that provides customers with time-based, unlimited access to Facebook.

Opera Software also revealed that it gained 8 million active mobile users in the month of January. The total user count of Opera’s various mobile offerings currently stands at 237 million. Opera is also doing fairly well in the smartphone segment, with a 32% of the total users of Opera Mini and Opera Mobile using smartphones to browse the web. These users constituted 32% of the new installs witnessed last month.