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BlackBerry to offer free apps from 1 December

BlackBerry's one free app per day from the likes of Angry Birds, Pacemaker and Monopoly would be available for free download for a 24 hour period. Photo: Bloomberg

New Delhi: Canadian handset maker BlackBerry Ltd is betting on the apps ecosystem to turn around its fortunes with free and discounts on apps across categories such as games, music and productivity for users of its BB10 platform.

'BlackBerry is kicking off the winter festive season with a variety of offers on some of its most popular apps on the BlackBerry World. The offers will roll out throughout the month of December 2013,' a BlackBerry spokesperson said. He added that the offer would be available to users of handsets such as Q5, Q10, Z10 and Z30, which run on its BB10 operating system across the world.

The company does not disclose the number of its users.

Under the first offer, BlackBerry will offer one free apps each day between 1 December and 25 December. 'One free app per day from the likes of Angry Birds, Pacemaker and Monopoly would be available for free download for a 24 hour period,' the spokesperson said.

Under the second offer, BlackBerry will launch its 'Hello Winter $0.99 Sale', where content will be offered at the discounted price during the entire month of December.

'BlackBerry World has over 140,000 apps for BB10 OS. India in particular has been a robust growth market for us from an apps standpoint, so I am confident that we will see tremendous traction with these offers,' the spokesperson said.

Around 27-30% of BlackBerry's sales in India is of devices powered by the BB10 platform, people close to the development say. In India, the four BB10-powered devices are priced between 22,000 and 44,000. The Canadian firm has been facing stiff competition from other smartphone makers such as Apple and Samsung as sales have declined over the past few months.

It is now placing big bets on apps, including taking its popular messaging service BBM to other operating systems, aimed at raking in additional revenue in the coming months. PTI

A Fond Farewell to the Craziest, Longest, Most Eventful Console Generation Ever

He called it the 'HD Era.'

On March 9, 2005, the gaming press crowded into a ballroom in the Moscone Center in San Francisco to witness the birth of a new era of game machines. Sony had dominated the industry for the last decade, and even goliath Microsoft had been no match for PlayStation 2. But the original Xbox was just the foot in the door, and the company's gaming evangelist J Allard was about to take the stage to talk next-generation - only three and a half years after the release date of that first Xbox.

The last great leap in gaming, Allard said, was the transition from 2-D to 3-D. What would happen next, he said, would be no less momentous: The transition to high-definition graphics, or the HD Era. This seems obvious in retrospect, but what Allard was saying at the time was that everyone would have to go out and buy an expensive new TV if they wanted to truly enjoy the next Xbox. At the time, a tiny 23-inch Samsung HD set cost over $1,000.

(Another indication of how long ago this was: Unlike most game industry keynote speeches, Allard's was not immediately uploaded to YouTube - because YouTube wouldn't launch until one month later. The gaming website IGN uploaded the video in tiny low-res chunks.)

But even though the speech was themed around the rapidly approaching transition to high-def televisions, Allard didn't spend a lot of time talking about graphics. What he emphasized were the radical new features of the next Xbox. Online multiplayer gaming was about to transition from an experimental add-on feature to a key component of the console gaming experience, and the next-gen Xbox would be built around the idea of delivering a consistent, system-level experience. In rapid fire, Allard laid out the major features of the new Xbox: 'gamercards' that represented your online profile, system alerts, custom soundtracks, microtransactions.

To help usher the game developer crowd into the HD Era, Allard concluded his speech by giving out hundreds of those Samsung 23-inch HD sets to roughly a third of the crowd, via lottery.

The next step in Microsoft's unorthodox plan for kickstarting the next generation of game machines was not, as everyone assumed it would be, a gala press briefing at the upcoming Electronic Entertainment Expo later that spring. Instead, it went straight to the consumers with an MTV infomercial hosted by Elijah Wood and featuring The Killers and the guys from Pimp My Ride. You didn't come away from the special with much actual information about what was then known to be called Xbox 360, although Microsoft did introduce a few features, like what it felt was the most striking element of the console's design, the green 'ring of light' around the power button. Allard was introduced as 'Lord of the Ring.'

The 2005 E3 Expo was the stage for the big showdown, as Microsoft, Sony and Nintendo would all be talking about next-gen. If Nintendo and Sony thought it premature, well, their hands had been forced by Microsoft, which was gearing up to actually launch its box that year. So while Microsoft was actually ready to let consumers get hands-on with the 360 and its games, Sony and Nintendo were trying to distract everyone with promises, vague proclamations and as much smoke and mirrors as they could muster.

Sony's game group, still led by 'father of the PlayStation' Ken Kutaragi, showed PowerPoint slide after PowerPoint slide filled with numbers upon numbers upon numbers, talking up the theoretical power behind the Cell processor that would power PlayStation 3, then pulled out a mockup of the PS3 box and promised it would be available in the spring of 2006.

Sony's response to the early launch of Xbox 360 was typical of the company's hubristic attitude: 'The next generation doesn't start until we say it does,' Kaz Hirai, then the head of SCEA, told CNN.

Nintendo, by contrast, gave the first indication that it was getting out of the graphics horse race: It, too, showed a mockup of the box for the game system it was calling the Nintendo Revolution, but CEO Satoru Iwata pulled it out of his jacket pocket. The box, he said, was the size of three DVD cases stacked vertically.

Sony got lots of applause when it showed off pre-rendered target videos that supposedly provided a rough estimate of what PlayStation 3 games would look like in high-def. But the biggest pop for Nintendo was when it announced that Revolution would be a 'virtual console' that could download and play games from the company's older platforms.

No matter which console attracted you more, it was still all a distraction, as hollow as the mockup consoles that Ken Kutaragi and Satoru Iwata posed for photos with. It was an attempt to get consumers to not buy Xbox 360 as it hit the market early.

Maybe the most interesting thing about that E3 was the dog that didn't bark: Nintendo showed Revolution, but not its controller. Nintendo had a reputation of introducing innovations in each of its game controllers that would eventually become industry standards: the D-pad, triggers, analog sticks. The Wavebird gamepad for its then-current GameCube had turned wireless controllers from a novelty item that didn't work reliably into a must-have feature, one which Sony and Microsoft were borrowing for their new consoles.

'Nintendo is always trying to be on the forefront of control innovations, like the analog stick, rumble or wireless. As soon as these are available, our competitors snatch them up,' Nintendo's game design chief Shigeru Miyamoto told me that year. 'Because the user interface is going to drive the Revolution software design, that's what's going to make our software stand out. Nobody else is going to be able to do what we do with next-generation game software. So, I can't reveal anything. It's under wraps because it's the big gun.'

Just before Microsoft launched the 360, Miyamoto pulled out the big gun. It didn't happen on a stage, but in a series of private demonstrations at the Hotel New Otani just before that year's Tokyo Game Show. I don't remember the first time I played an Xbox 360 or a PlayStation 3, but I will never forget the first time I tried a Wii controller. We walked into the room and these things that looked like television remote controls were arrayed on a shelf in a rainbow of colors. Miyamoto picked one up, pointed it at the TV and used it to shoot a target. My stomach did a little flip; I couldn't believe what I was seeing and couldn't understand how it was being done.

Iwata formally announced the Revolution controller concept at the Tokyo Game Show later that week, although Nintendo didn't let anyone besides that small group of media actually play or see the controllers in action. (And even though Nintendo kept it under wraps as long as possible, Sony did rip off the motion-sensing idea for PS3.)

Shortly after Tokyo Game Show was over, it was time to launch the Xbox 360. Microsoft apparently wasn't happy with its earlier decision to put a hard drive into every single Xbox, and so for the 360 it gave consumers two choices: a $399 package that included the wireless controller and a 20 GB hard drive, and a $299 package with a wired controller and no internal storage at all. Although it was understandable that Microsoft would be gun-shy about the costs of hard drives, it made a rookie move here because it fragmented its user base. It didn't matter that the 360 supported a hard drive or that the majority of early adopters went for the more expensive SKU, because developers had to program their games on the assumption that the hard drive wouldn't be there.

E2 2006 was more momentous than 2005′s show. Microsoft already had its hardware on the market, and it was selling well. The spring of 2006 was here and there was no sign of PlayStation 3. And apart from a few more tiny details, we hadn't heard anything else about Nintendo's new console except it had changed the name from Revolution to Wii, which people hated almost universally. (I defended the choice.)

YouTube was not yet up and running when Microsoft unveiled the Xbox 360. By the time Sony had its fateful press conference in 2006, the video sharing site was fully operational - much to Sony's chagrin. A crudely remixed video of the conference's lowlights - terrible-looking games and an exorbitant $599 price - was stickier than any of the traditional media coverage that came out of the press conference. The idea that the PlayStation 3 was shaping up to be a huge mess was taking hold.

Nintendo, too, was fighting off the idea that it was in an inextricable mess. GameCube had sold not very well at all when compared to PlayStation 2, and even the original Xbox was outselling it. The conventional wisdom was that Nintendo should get out of the console wars by 'going third party' and putting its games on PlayStation and Xbox. Nintendo was going to get out of the console wars, but in a different way: Its low-powered, low-cost, family-friendly hardware would be aimed at those who didn't really play videogames.

At E3, it finally showed off retail games, as opposed to tech demos, for Wii. Nintendo enclosed its entire booth - what I remember hearing at the show was that the booth was a giant Faraday cage, designed to keep out electronic interference and allow the hundred or so Wii Remote controllers inside the booth to operate without problems. What the closed-off booth meant was this: Every morning, when the doors to E3 opened, a mad rush of people stormed in, running at top speed through the aisles, straight past the PlayStation 3 area, back to Nintendo's booth to get in line to play Wii, where they found a line of people already there because exhibitors from other booths had walked over and gotten in line before the doors opened.

The launches, later that year, of PS3 and Wii could not have gone more differently. Thousands lined up on day one to get the PlayStation 3, as Sony, facing chip yield issues with the Cell, had cut the launch quantities of PS3 by 75 percent. But even with severely restricted supply, PlayStation 3s were languishing on shelves by February and sales were sluggish in the U.S. and Japan alike. Ken Kutaragi became an insane quote machine, calling the $600 box 'too cheap' and suggesting that players 'work more hours' to be able to afford one.

It was the other way around for Wii - launch day was quieter, and you could walk in and buy a console. But they kept coming day after day, as word took hold among the casual gamers that Nintendo was targeting that this Wii Sports game was a lot of fun. And Nintendo wouldn't be able to keep Wii in stock reliably for another few years.

The next generation had launched, technically, but not entirely. Because nobody was fully ready for what consumers would start to demand, and everything would change.

Apple shares hit high for 2013 on holiday hope

Kevork Djansezian, Getty Images

(USA Today) - Apple shares rose to the highest level this year as investors bet products like the latest iPads and iPhones will be hot sellers this holiday, helping the consumer technology giant kick-start earnings growth again.

The stock climbed 1.9% to $556.07 Friday. Earlier in the day, it touched $594.59, a 2013 high.

Apple unveiled two new iPhones earlier this year and more recently launched the new iPad Air and an upgraded iPad mini.

The iPad mini was among top sellers at Walmart on Thanksgiving, while Target said the iPad Air was a hot item at its stores. On, one iPad was selling every second as of midnight on Thanksgiving.

'Apple products should be the holiday gift of choice this year,' said Brian Marshall, an analyst at ISI Group. 'The company has a great product cycle currently, the stock is cheap and we expect $600 within the next several months.'

Apple gadgets are also popular shopping tools. Mobile devices running on the company's iOS operating system -- basically iPads and iPhones -- made up more than a quarter of all online traffic to major retail websites early on Black Friday. These devices also accounted for 18% of all online sales in the period, according to IBM Digital Analytics Benchmark.

Apple shares have lagged technology sector rivals and the broader stock market this year on concern about a lack of earnings growth and a slim pipeline of new products.

However, investors have recently become more confident that earnings growth will resume in 2014, according to Walter Piecyk, an analyst at BTIG.

There's also hope that China Mobile, the largest wireless carrier in that country, will soon start selling Apple products, he noted.

Japan's largest carrier, NTT Docomo, recently started offering iPhones and that helped Apple grab 76% of smartphone sales in the country in October, according to research firm Kantar Worldpanel ComTech.

'We would attribute the recent jump [in Apple shares] to a combination of renewed China Mobile speculation and strong product positioning heading into the holidays, including much improved iPhone supply,' said Will Power, an analyst at RW Baird.

Gene Munster, an analyst at Piper Jaffray, checked 60 Apple stores recently and found that 90% of iPhone 5s models were available on average. That was up from 31% two weeks earlier and 10% at the beginning of October.

'We view the improvement in supply as an encouraging sign that Apple has begun to catch up to demand,' Munster wrote in a note to investors.

Apple shares hit high for 2013 on holiday hope

Kevork Djansezian, Getty Images

(USA Today) - Apple shares rose to the highest level this year as investors bet products like the latest iPads and iPhones will be hot sellers this holiday, helping the consumer technology giant kick-start earnings growth again.

The stock climbed 1.9% to $556.07 Friday. Earlier in the day, it touched $594.59, a 2013 high.

Apple unveiled two new iPhones earlier this year and more recently launched the new iPad Air and an upgraded iPad mini.

The iPad mini was among top sellers at Walmart on Thanksgiving, while Target said the iPad Air was a hot item at its stores. On, one iPad was selling every second as of midnight on Thanksgiving.

'Apple products should be the holiday gift of choice this year,' said Brian Marshall, an analyst at ISI Group. 'The company has a great product cycle currently, the stock is cheap and we expect $600 within the next several months.'

Apple gadgets are also popular shopping tools. Mobile devices running on the company's iOS operating system -- basically iPads and iPhones -- made up more than a quarter of all online traffic to major retail websites early on Black Friday. These devices also accounted for 18% of all online sales in the period, according to IBM Digital Analytics Benchmark.

Apple shares have lagged technology sector rivals and the broader stock market this year on concern about a lack of earnings growth and a slim pipeline of new products.

However, investors have recently become more confident that earnings growth will resume in 2014, according to Walter Piecyk, an analyst at BTIG.

There's also hope that China Mobile, the largest wireless carrier in that country, will soon start selling Apple products, he noted.

Japan's largest carrier, NTT Docomo, recently started offering iPhones and that helped Apple grab 76% of smartphone sales in the country in October, according to research firm Kantar Worldpanel ComTech.

'We would attribute the recent jump [in Apple shares] to a combination of renewed China Mobile speculation and strong product positioning heading into the holidays, including much improved iPhone supply,' said Will Power, an analyst at RW Baird.

Gene Munster, an analyst at Piper Jaffray, checked 60 Apple stores recently and found that 90% of iPhone 5s models were available on average. That was up from 31% two weeks earlier and 10% at the beginning of October.

'We view the improvement in supply as an encouraging sign that Apple has begun to catch up to demand,' Munster wrote in a note to investors.

Motorola's Moto G lands on Amazon

Just in time for Black Friday, the low-cost sibling to the Moto X pops up on the e-commerce giant with shipping starting on December 4.

(Credit: Andrew Hoyle/CNET)

Motorola surprised the smartphone world by launching its new Moto G cell phone on it Web site months early. Now, the device can also be bought on Amazon.

The e-commerce giant began selling both the 8GB and 16GB versions of the smartphone on Friday. The prices are the same as Motorola, which has the 8GB going for $179 and the 16GB at $199. Amazon says that the device will start shipping on December 4, while Motorola will begin shipping on December 2.

The Moto G is a less expensive version of Motorola's Moto X. The Moto X, which launched only in the US earlier this year, stands out to customers because they can tweak how the device looks with different colors and accents.

The Moto G is being launched around the world, which could mean it'll sell better than its costlier predecessor. It has nearly an identical design to the Moto X and also offers a host of colors, 720p 4.5-inch display, and the Android Jellybean operating system.

Initially, Motorola said it was planning to launch the Moto G in the US in January. However, the company surprised users by debuting the device in the US this week. In an interview, Motorola CEO Dennis Woodside told CNET that early demand for the phone has been strong overseas and the company was able to ramp up the manufacturing process faster than anticipated.

Via Android Central.

Microsoft Said to Lean to Mulally, Nadella in CEO Search

Microsoft Corp.'s board is focusing on Ford Motor Co. Chief Executive Officer Alan Mulally and internal executive Satya Nadella as part of a group of more likely candidates to become the next CEO of the world's biggest software company, according to people familiar with the matter.

While internal candidate Tony Bates and former Nokia Oyj CEO Stephen Elop remain in the mix, they're currently considered less likely to be offered the job, said the people, who asked not to be identified because the deliberations are private. Preferences remain fluid and other people are being considered and could emerge as front-runners, said one of the people, without identifying any.

The board is aiming for a quick replacement for longtime CEO Steve Ballmer, who said in August that he will retire within the next 12 months. The Redmond, Washington-based company has seen its software leadership decline amid a shrinking of the personal-computer market, which was its core business. Microsoft is shifting strategy to focus more on hardware and Internet-based services and away from its software roots as it competes with Apple Inc. and Google Inc.

Frank Shaw, a spokesman at Microsoft, declined to comment or to make any executives available yesterday. Susan Sheehan, a spokeswoman for Nokia, which is still Elop's employer, declined to comment.

'There is no change from what we announced last November,' said Jay Cooney, a spokesman at Ford. 'Alan remains completely focused on executing our One Ford plan. We do not engage in speculation.'

Board Meeting

The board met on Nov. 18 about the CEO search, Microsoft chairman and co-founder Bill Gates said at a shareholder meeting last week. Gates said he and other directors have met with 'a lot of CEO candidates.' He declined to give a timeline for the decision, adding that 'it's a complex role to fill.'

Ballmer was all smiles at the shareholder event, calling it a 'fun meeting,' compared with the teary goodbye message he gave to employees at an internal companywide meeting in September.

The board is aiming to have a CEO decision this year, though an announcement could be pushed back until early next year, said one of the people with knowledge of the matter.

A document prepared by the board for the CEO search describes the ideal candidate as one who has an 'extensive track record in managing complex, global organizations within a fast-paced and highly competitive market sector; track record of delivering top and bottom line results. Proven ability to lead a multi-billion dollar organization and large employee base,' people with knowledge of the document have said.

To contact the reporters on this story: Dina Bass in Seattle at; Carol Hymowitz in New York at

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Pui-Wing Tam at

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SMS Vulnerability In Nexus Phones Can Be Exploited To Force A Reboot Or Kill ...

Today, at the DefCamp Security Conference in Bucharest, Romania, details were revealed about a potentially serious SMS vulnerability found in all current Nexus devices. The person responsible for the discovery is Bogdan Alecu, an independent security researcher in Romania. When exploited, the attack can force the phone to reboot or destabilize certain services.

The method of attack simply relies on sending a series of Class 0 'Flash' messages to the target phone. Flash messages are typically used for emergency or security purposes, appearing on the screen immediately instead of going to the default SMS application. When such a message arrives, no sounds are made but the background is dimmed and a single dialog box appears on top. Once 20-30 messages pile up, assuming the user isn't clearing them, it overloads the system and leads to a few potential side-effects. Most commonly, the result is an unresponsive device or an immediate reboot, but the Messages app or cellular radio may occasionally crash or freeze up in some instances.

In the event that the cellular radio crashes, it may have some more serious consequences. If a target has their SIM locked with a PIN code, the phone will not be able to reconnect until the code is entered. From time to time, it's also possible for the cellular radio to seize up, which can only be fixed by restarting the device. This is problematic because there are no audible prompts and the malfunction won't be seen until the owner unlocks their screen, leaving them without service for potentially several hours.

Alecu first notified The Android Security Team to the issue over a year ago, but initially received only automated responses. Continued efforts were mostly unsuccessful, leading to the decision to disclose the vulnerability publicly. To mitigate potential threats, he collaborated with Michael Mueller to develop Class0Firewall, an app designed to protect from Class 0 messages if they reach the threshold of becoming a denial-of-service attack.

Bogdan notes that the current attack is only capable of destabilizing a phone, but theorizes that it might be possible to force remote code execution.

Based on limited testing with devices from various vendors, the vulnerability appears to only affect the Nexus line running on all versions of Android through to the current release of KitKat. Hopefully the publicity will prompt Google to release a patch to block the issue as quickly as possible. Even if a fix is rolled out, it's not entirely clear if the Galaxy Nexus will receive it now that it is no longer getting OS updates. Ideally, the patch will be ported back to Android 4.3 and a security release will be made for the 2-year-old phone.

Thanks, Bogdan Alecu!

Android 4.4 KitKat is Coming to LG G2 in Q1 2014

A number of smartphone manufacturers have been announcing update schedules for Android 4.4 KitKat, and the latest of these is LG, as the company announced it will be rolling out Android 4.4 for the flagship G2 in the first quarter of 2014.

To be more exact, the LG G2 is set to receive Android 4.4 KitKat sometime in March 2014. The rollout window was confirmed by an LG representative who spoke to Canada-centric tech site Mobile Syrup. And since Canadian carrier-branded handsets typically get upgraded to a new Android version at the same time their U.S. counterparts do, then there's a good chance the AT&T LG G2 will get Android 4.4 KitKat in March 2014 or thereabouts.

The LG G2 was released this summer with Android 4.2.2 Jelly Bean out of the box, with LG's proprietary user interface on top. The handset includes a 5.2-inch, 1080p display, a quad-core Snapdragon 800 processor clocked at 2.2 GHz, a 13-megapixel rear camera, and a 3,000 mAh battery as its basic specifications, while its unique hardware feature is found on its button placement, where the volume controls are located on the back of the G2 instead of on the side.

Try these:

A closer look at the Jolla phone: good intentions, bad delivery

Jolla's self-titled and first smartphone launched in partnership with Finnish carrier DNA this week, with a few hundred handsets finding their way to early pre-orderers. Today, a couple of familiar faces from the company stopped off in London to let us play with the final hardware and get to grips with Jolla's Sailfish OS, which is based somewhat on Nokia's old MeeGo platform. If you caught our tour of the Jolla prototype earlier this year then you've got a good idea of what the handset looks like. In fact, the only differences we can see aesthetically are slightly smaller bezels above and below the screen, and that the rear camera has moved from right flank to center stage. Internally, the core specs are: A 1.4GHz dual-core Snapdragon 400 (MSM8930), 1GB of RAM, 16GB of storage space (expandable), a 4.5-inch, 960x540 (qHD) IPS LCD display, an 8-megapixel rear camera and 2-megapixel shooter on the front. We only had a few hours to probe Jolla's first device, but head past the break for our initial impressions.

Jolla phone hands-on

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As we've said, the handset's design hasn't changed much since the prototype stage. Jolla's phone is angular, solidly built and at 141g (nearly 5 ounces), has an industrial quality to it. While its appearance may be preferable to curves for some, the lack of rounded edges doesn't make for the most comfortable hold. The sharp edges tend to dig in to your hand; the bottom corners especially. We not sure we like the seam that separates the main both of the phone from the 'other half' either, which in our case was a white, plastic shell. Currently, there are various colors of shells, each with an NFC chip on the inside edge. Switching covers will automatically change the 'ambience' -- Sailfish's color themes that pervade the UI -- and Jolla imagines third-parties creating their own shells and accompanying ambiences.

What's more intriguing is under the shell. There's a removable 2100mAh battery, micro-SIM and microSD slots, but it's the bare connectors we're more interested in. One's for power, which we assume will allow for extended-battery cases, and the other is for general hardware interface. To explain how this could be used, Jolla's Marc Dillon gave the example of a shell with an integrated keyboard. The company wouldn't confirm what other half peripherals it's working on exactly, but intends third-parties to get creative, too, when the necessary developer tools are released in the near future.

It's a dull day in London, so we were unable to fully assess sunlight readability, but the 4.5-inch LCD display (protected by a sheet of Gorilla Glass 2) is bright and colors look pretty good. The 245 ppi served up by the screen's 960x540 resolution is adequate, but nothing special. Pixelation is sometimes an issue, which isn't helped by the skinny font Jolla's chosen for the UI.

As for the camera, again, it's a bit of a mixed bag. As you can see from the sample image above, with a decent amount of light, color representation is good. Step out somewhere less well lit, however, and things do start to deteriorate. We took an assortment of snaps indoors and out, and as you'll see, the results are inconsistent. Low light causes the sensor to struggle, and the flash doesn't do much to improve the situation. That said, the images actually appear to look worse in the gallery/on the phone's display than they actually do once you get them off the handset and onto your PC. A task that actually caused us quite a few problems, with USB, Bluetooth, email and attempts to share via the memory card all tripping us up (eventually, sending via email suddenly kicked into life). We'd love to spend more time with the camera to give it a fairer crack of the whip, but our first impressions weren't entirely positive.

Jolla phone samples

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25 Photos

Like Jolla's hardware, its Sailfish OS isn't markedly different from when we saw it running on a Nokia developer device almost a year ago. It's structured vertically, so you scroll up from the lockscreen to get to the multi-tasking screen, then to the app drawer. The interface is very gesture-heavy, so minimizing applications to the multi-tasking panel is done by dragging inwards from the left or right bezel. Similarly, dragging down from the top bezel closes an app, and coming up from the bottom bezel brings the notification and social network quick-access panel up. Some apps have 'pulley' menus that open when you swipe downwards on the screen, and long presses in some contexts opens up a separate option menu.

If all that sounds kind of complicated, well, it is. We got better at knowing what to do next even during the short time we spent with the phone, but it's that learning curve we take umbrage with. It wants to be intuitive -- as the Jolla folks put it, they want you to do something, rather than press a button that does something -- but ends up being mysterious and sometimes confusing. The big smartphone platforms are much easier to navigate, partly because we're used to them before, but also because they do a good job of guiding you. Sailfish isn't friendly to novices, and the swipe gestures don't feel like a natural or particularly efficient way of interacting with the UI. There were a few occasions, too, when we just couldn't find that setting, or this option. Sharing a picture shouldn't be a chore. However, Jolla says it's committed to listening to feedback and intends to build on this initial release with updates. One such update that'll be arriving fairly shortly will enable LTE on the handset, which is limited to 3G at the moment.

Another problem with Sailfish is that performance just isn't as slick as other platforms. Poking around the OS is fast enough, but most apps take a second or two to load, when there are no crashes or quirks. Strange WiFi behavior and other problems like struggling to free our camera sample images show that there's a lot of polishing to be done. The Android integration, too, needs some work. Android apps appear in the regular app drawer, so there's no confusing disconnect there, but they all run very laggy. The selection in the Yandex app store itself is a little deflating also, but there are rumblings it's possible to install Amazon's App Store and others like Atoide. Sailfish's dedicated app store is extremely sparse at this time, but Jolla says there are a bunch in development. The company's general software strategy is to Android performance and stock up its own marketplace.

We were excited to get an extended look at a brand new smartphone player that's building its own products and OS. However, we came away a little underwhelmed. The handset is distinct, but not remarkable, although we're yet to see what can be done with the 'other half.' The OS is admittedly a work in progress, but now the Jolla phone is a retail device, we have conclude that the user experience just isn't up to scratch at this point. Perhaps mixing in some more traditional UI elements will make us appreciate the gesture system more, too.

The company has plans beyond their firstborn, as more handsets will be made in the future. Jolla were keen to report, however, that the focus currently is to improve Sailfish and support this initial device, not move on to other things now they've got this launch out of the way. All pre-ordered handsets are shipping across Europe at this time, but the phone will be available internationally through Jolla's website soon. Sailfish might end up in other devices not of Jolla's design, too. Dillon told us that prior to this handset's launch, Jolla had been in discussions with several Android smartphone makers. Now the company has delivered their own hardware, we're hearing some of those discussions just got a lot more serious.

We're working to get the video up, so check back soon. James Trew contributed to this report.

Apple complains court

After Apple was found guilty of ebook price fixing earlier this year, US District Judge Denise Cote appointed Michael Bromwich as the company's antitrust compliance monitor. Bromwich has been tasked with keeping an eye on Apple for two years to help ensure the company doesn't repeat the business tactics that landed it in the DOJ's crosshairs. Apple is required to pay Bromwich for his work, but after receiving his first invoice, it's already filed a complaint with the federal court overseeing the case.

The world's most valuable tech company says Bromwich is asking for too much

Bromwich is reportedly seeking an hourly rate of $1,100 for his time, which Apple says it the highest rate it's ever had to pay any lawyer. 'Mr. Bromwich appears to be simply taking advantage of the fact that there is no competition here or, in his view, any ability on the part of Apple, the subject of his authority, to push back on his demands,' reads the filing. On top of the base hourly rate, Bromwich is also charging Apple a 15 percent administrative fee. According to Apple, this is because he's serving as a monitor through his consulting business, The Bromwich Group, instead of Goodwin Procter, a law firm at which he's a partner. Apple finds fault with this logic, pointing to a press release issued by Goodwin Procter it claims was 'clearly meant to drum up more business' for the firm.Apple says such a fee is 'unprecedented' in its experience.

All told, Bromwich wants $138,432 from the world's most valuable technology company for his first two weeks on the job. Apple is none too pleased with the bill, and it's also displeased that Cote has proposed allowing Bromwich to meet with employees (and report back to the judge) without its own lawyers present.

Pebble smartwatch now sold on US Amazon store for $148.99

Pebble, the e-Paper watch compatible with both iOS and Android is now on sale and available on the US Amazon store for a healthy US$148.99. It's great timing as well, because today is Black Friday in the States and Pebble is clearly positioning its smartwatch to take advantage of shopping's bet day of the year.

Pebble is now also more iOS 7 friendly than any other smartwatch currently on sale. Recently released is SDK 2.0 for Pebble, which offers full integration for iOS 7, and persistent storage - native Pebble apps will now store navigational data without having to be reliant on a smartphone. So apps like Foursquare, Facebook and Waze will work better and faster, even without data being relayed to them. The new SKD update is also said to make it easier for cross-platform app development.

There's also news of a brand new app that makes it a snap to install new watch faces on Pebble, reports CNET. MyPebbleFaces is a free app born from the web and because of its popularity, blossomed into a fully fledged app.

Born on Kickstarter and made to be different, Pebble is a smartwatch with a twist. Instead of a colour display and the need to always be tethered to a smartphone, Pebble has a monochrome, 144×168 ' transflective LCD' e-Paper display (developed by Sharp) and an affinity for both major mobile OS', namely iOS and Android. Most smartwatches, like Samsung's Galaxy Gear, only run on Android, with very few devices outside of the CooKoo being compatible with iOS. Pebble also has the honour of being one of the most successful Kickstarter campaigns of all time, having raised over US$10-million after 30 days of funding. Pebble is described as being 'solid' and reliable' by some sites and has been well-received, having sold close to 200 000 smartwatches since the launch in April.

Amazon Kindle Fire HDX 8.9 review

Product Kindle Fire HDX 8.9Website AmazonSpecifications 8.9in 2560x1600 resolution 339ppi IPS touchscreen display, quad-core 2.2GHz Qualcomm Snapdragon 800 processor, 2GB RAM, 16GB/32GB/64GB internal storage, 802.11a/b/g/n WiFi, 4G LTE support, microUSB 2.0 port, 3.5mm headphone jack, 8MP rear-facing camera with LED flash, 1.2MP front-facing HD camera for video calling, over 12 hours' battery life quoted, modified Android 4.3 Jelly Bean mobile operating system, 231x158x7.8mm, 374g Price From £329

ONLINE RETAIL GIANT Amazon's Kindle Fire HDX 8.9 is the successor to last year's Kindle Fire HD 8.9, which sees Amazon stepping up its hardware game. However, there's a price to pay for the tablet's higher end specifications, as the Kindle Fire HDX 8.9 costs £100 more than its predecessor.

This pits Amazon up against the big products in the tablet market, including Apple's iPad Air and Samsung's Galaxy Note 10.1. However, with Amazon's Fire operating system (OS) onboard with its lacklustre app selection, we're not sure that it's ready for prime time.

DesignThe Kindle Fire HDX 8.9 is not the best looking tablet on the market right now, but it's a definite improvement over last year's model.

The rear of the tablet is constructed from two plastic materials. Most of the back is covered in a rubberised, soft-touch plastic material similar to that on the Google Nexus 7, which makes the device comfortable to hold. Those who like to keep their tablet free of fingerprints might not be impressed by the material, however, as we have found that the Kindle Fire HDX 8.9 takes the title of grubbiest tablet, with the backing and display prone to picking up grease and grime.

An angled glossy black plastic bar covers the top of the tablet, which adds a bit of interest to its appearance. The tablet's physical buttons make things a bit more interesting too, with Amazon taking a leaf out of LG's book by placing the Power and Volume keys on the back of the tablet. Although these took a while to get used to, we soon found our fingers moving naturally to the buttons.

In terms of size, the Amazon Kindle Fire HDX 8.9 gives the iPad Air a run for its money. Although it's not quite as skinny as the iPad Air, Amazon's tablet measures a mere 7.8mm thick and tips the scales at 374g, lighter than Apple's latest flagship iPad. This means that the device doesn't get uncomfortable to use over long periods, and we found that we barely noticed it when we chucked it in our bag.

Display On paper, the Amazon Kindle Fire HDX 8.9 packs an 8.9in 2560x1600 IPS LCD touchscreen display with a pixel density of 339ppi.

This display performs just as well as, if not better than Amazon's top-end competition. HD movies look great, the screen is especially bright, and we found viewing angles were on a par with those found on the iPad Air.

As previously mentioned, however, during our time with the tablet the screen has proven a nightmare for picking up fingerprints, and it's likely that it will need a daily clean.

Next: Performance, operating system.

Nokia Lumia 2520

Nokia's first tablet isn't a bad device by any means. It delivers impressive gaming performance, has built-in cellular support, an incredibly bright screen, and includes a suite of Nokia-only apps.

However, I couldn't figure out why the 2520 is so thick. The Microsoft Surface 2 has just as much girth, but earns its corpulence with a kickstand and a full USB port.

The Lumia 2520's screen also has a distracting yellow tint, and the $149 keyboard/cover accessory isn't nearly as comfortable to type on as Surface 2's Type Cover.

It's great that it comes with a full version of Microsoft Office -- as all Windows RT tablets do -- but because it's running RT, that also means it's incompatible with legacy Windows programs and lacks app support compared with Android and iOS.

At $499, the 2520 is about $50 more expensive -- for the off-contract version -- than the Surface 2, placing it squarely in the shadow of Microsoft's RT tablet.

Design If Nokia were going to make a tablet, based on its recent phone designs, the Lumia 2520 is almost exactly how I'd imagine it to look. The Verizon version we got for review has a striking red chassis and a thick jet-black bezel on the front. There's also an unmistakable plastic feel to its body, but it doesn't necessarily give off a cheap tablet vibe. The back is slightly sloped so that the edges of the tablet are a couple centimeters off your desk when laid down flat.

In light of recent tablet releases like the Apple iPad Air and Amazon Kindle Fire HDX 8.9, the Lumia 2520 feels a bit heavy. To be sure, it's not quite as heavy as the Microsoft Surface 2, but with the lack of a kickstand, I found myself holding the 2520 in my hands a lot more than I did the Surface 2. So its heft was probably more noticeable to me.

The Lumia is slightly thicker than the Surface 2, but the Surface 2, with its aforementioned kickstand and full-size USB port, earns its extra girth; the 2520 has no such trade-off. Additionally, its corners are pointy and when held they're a constant reminder that rounded corners are the way to go on tablets -- especially those of the heavier ilk.

With the 2520 held in landscape, you'll find the headphone jack and power adapter port along the left edge, a power button and volume rocker on the top-right edge, and a key-accessible slot for the microSD card and SIM card on the far left of the top edge. On the right edge sits the Micro-HDMI port and Micro-USB 3.0 port. The 2520 also includes NFC. Nokia also outfits the Lumia 2520 with dual cameras: a 2-megapixel front and a 6.7-megapixel back.

(Credit: James Martin/CNET)

The Power Keyboard If you're going to purchase the Lumia 2520, you should strongly consider buying Nokia's $149 keyboard/cover -- especially if you're planning to do lots of productivity tasks. Like Microsoft's Type Cover for the Surface 2, the Power Keyboard is a full laptop-style keyboard with all the keys and shortcuts you'd expect. However, since it's not as wide as the Type Cover, it doesn't feel as comfortable to type on.

It doesn't cramp up my hands like the Asus Transformer Pad TF701T's smaller keyboard does, but the experience isn't as pleasant as it is on the Surface 2. Also, the Power Keyboard's keys are small, hard, and lack backlighting. The polar opposite of the Type Cover. The keyboard does include two full USB ports in the back, an extra battery, and can fold up like a Trapper Keeper when you're on the move.

The keyboard is essential to the 2520's experience, so while I recommend it, I want to reiterate that it's not as good as Microsoft's Type Cover.

(Credit: Andrew Hoyle/CNET)

Software features The Nokia Lumia 2520 is one of only two Windows RT tablets released this year. The other is the Surface 2, which may explain why it's being so closely compared with Microsoft's tablet. In addition to its inclusion of Microsoft Office -- an advantage all Windows RT devices share -- the 2520 comes with a suite of Nokia apps, including its own camera app, Here Maps, Video Director, and Nokia Music.

Video Director allows you to very quickly and easily edit short video clips. You choose the video, select one of four different transition styles, and add intro and outro text. The app then spends a couple of seconds compiling the video before it starts playing.

(Credit: Screenshot by Eric Franklin/CNET)

Don't expect anything on the level of iMovie, but it's an easy way to jazz up your pics and video a bit. Here Maps is Nokia's own map software with an emphasis on personalization and easily finding restaurants, entertainment, and shopping options in your area.

Nokia Music follows the model of pretty much every streaming-music service, including Xbox Music -- which is also included -- but goes one step further by allowing you to cache some songs for offline playback.

(Credit: Screenshot by Eric Franklin/CNET)

Dell's First

Dell today provided more details on its Black Friday deals which kick off at 6 p.m. ET on Thanksgiving Day with several online 'doorbusters.'

Beginning at 6 p.m. ET Thursday, Dell will offer the Android-based Venue 8 tablet with an Intel Atom processor, 2GB of memory, and 16GB of storage for $129.99, down from $179.99. The deal runs until 1 p.m. ET on Black Friday, but Dell warned that this and all of its other deals might end earlier if it exhausts supplies, so act fast.

Also from 6 p.m. ET on Thanksgiving to 1 p.m. on Black Friday, an Xbox 360 4GB with Kinect holiday bundle will be $199.99, a 33 percent discount.

If you're up late on Thanksgiving, the Dell Inspiron 15 laptop will be $199.99 starting at 12 a.m. ET on Black Friday, down from $349.99. That deal runs until 1 p.m. ET on Black Friday, but after Dell sells its limited quantity of $199.99 laptops, the Inspiron 15 will be $299.99 'for another few thousand units and expire afterwards,' so another reason to buy sooner rather than later.

Also at midnight ET on Black Friday, shoppers can get 33 percent off the Dell Inspiron 660s slim tower desktop, which will be on sale for $199.99 until 1 p.m. ET on Nov. 29. It too will get a price bump to $299.99 when Dell exhausts its initial supply.

For those looking for a TV, Dell is offering $250 off a 50-inch Sharp LED 50LE442U Aquos 1080p 60Hz HDTV, which you can buy for $498. That also runs from midnight to 1 p.m. on Black Friday. A Dell E2313H 23-inch 1080p widescreen monitor will also be $99.99, a 50 percent discount, during the same time period.

Starting at 8 a.m. ET on Black Friday, meanwhile, the Dell Inspiron 11 3000 Series Touch laptop will be for $299.99 in a deal that runs until 7 a.m. ET on Nov. 30. The Dell Inspiron One 20 all-in-one desktop will also be $349.99, a 39 percent discount.

Meanwhile, a Nikon D3200 24.2-megapixel Digital SLR camera bundle with 18-55 mm zoom will be $499.99, a 47 percent discount, between 8 a.m. Friday and 7 a.m. on Saturday. The Canon PowerShot A2500 16-megapixel digital camera will also be $59.99, or 45 percent off.

To close out the day, Dell will have a final round of 'doorbusters' starting at 2 p.m. ET on Black Friday.

A Dell Inspiron 15 laptop with third-gen Intel Core i3 processor, 4GB of memory, and a 500GB hard drive will be $299.99 (33 percent off). A Dell Inspiron 660 desktop with third-gen Intel Core i5 processor, 8GB of memory, a 1TB hard drive, and a 22-inch Dell monitor will be $549.99 (38 percent off), while a 1TB Dell external portable hard drive will be $49.99 (44 percent discount).

Finally, get 57 percent off a Jarba Sport Corded Headset for $29.99, also until 7 a.m. on Saturday.

Meanwhile, at Best Buy, a 15.6-inch Dell Inspiron laptop with 4GB of memory and a 320GB hard drive will be $177.99, down from $399.99, from Thursday to Saturday.

If you can't wait, Dell has already been serving up some pre-Black Friday savings. For more, check out PCMag's Best Deals Today.

SoundSeeder Does Its Best Chromecast Impression, Adds Google Play Music ...

A few months ago we told you about a nifty music streaming app called SoundSeeder, which lets you stream audio directly from one Android device to another over WiFi. At the time I mentioned that it was a cool idea, but the fact that it didn't allow users to stream Google Music songs over the connection was a bit of a let down. Developer JekApps took my complaint under advisement, and let us know that there's a new version that enables Google Play Music streaming after all. Full marks for ingenuity!

They've achieved this by spoofing the music server app as a Chromecast. So, set up your music server device with both SoundSeeder and Google Play Music, then enable Google Play Music Mode in the settings menu and enable it on the main screen. Install the SoundSeeder speaker app on one or more receiving devices on the same WiFi network, preferably plugged in to some kind of external speaker. Now you can play music in Google Play on the server device and 'cast' it to the server app, which then broadcasts the streaming audio to the SoundSeeder speaker apps on the other phones. With a little setup and tinkering, you've got a cobbled-together home streaming setup with access to Google Play Music All Access.

SoundSeeder Speaker, streaming the Google Play Music track from my Nexus 5.

You can see the various components of this setup working on my own devices in these screenshots. Though it sounds a little daunting, the process itself is not that difficult, and it's surprisingly effective once everything's up and running. You can try out both the server and the speaker apps in a time-limited demo mode, and the full version of SoundSeeder is a reasonable $3.89 via in-app purchase.

CyanogenMod Installer disappears from Google Play

When it comes to the Android custom ROM community, CyanogenMod is considered by many to be the holy grail. If your smartphone or tablet receives official support for the ROM, you can be assured of regular updates. However, for many, the stock Android experience has now matured to a point where custom ROMs are no longer needed.

Despite this (or maybe because of this), CyanogenMod decided to monetize its ROM and form a company. To easier facilitate the process of installing it, the company released a helper app on the Play Store. Yesterday, the app was pulled from the store - and that's a good thing.

'Today, we were contacted by the Google Play Support team to say that our CyanogenMod Installer application is in violation of Google Play's developer terms. They advised us to voluntarily remove the application, or they would be forced to remove it administratively. We have complied with their wishes while we wait for a more favorable resolution', says Ciwrl of the CyanogenMod team.

He further says, 'fortunately, Android is open enough that devices allow for installing applications via Unknown Sources (ie sideload). Though it's a hassle and adds steps to the process, this does allow us a path forward, outside of the Play Store itself'.

I understand the frustration of the CyanogenMod team, but this is for the best. After all, the app does nothing other than help users replace the stock operating system with the custom one. However, since the process can render a device inoperable and lead to a poor experience, making it easy is not a good idea. After all, when users encounter bugs and broken phones, they will come to the cellular carrier or manufacturer for help.

Plus, while I am sure CyanogenMod's intentions are good now, there is nothing to stop the team from introducing malware or nefarious things to the operating system later. Ultimately, Google is protecting the security of its users by removing this potentially dangerous app.

Sadly, CyanogenMod will direct users to sideload the app by enabling unknown sources. This opens up users to further danger as malware and viruses can be installed by this method too. However, the company will also try to submit the application to the Samsung and Amazon app stores.

Ultimately, the stock Android experience is rather good and the benefit of installing a custom ROM like CyanogenMod is debatable. It is worth questioning why the company is so interested in replacing the stock experience, when it can ultimately have a negative impact if something goes wrong.

Let us not forget that a smartphone is a communication device that can save someone's life by calling 911 and other services. I have used custom ROMs in the past that have caused the dialer app not to work or for the other party not to hear me. Luckily, I was not in danger at the time. This may sound dramatic, but it is true - a buggy ROM could kill you.

Apple Black Friday Deals Will Be Gift Cards, Not In

If the example of Apple's Australian store is consistent with what its American store will do, Apple's Black Friday sale will actually only be a gift card promotion. As 9to5 Mac predicted yesterday, the setup at the Apple Store tomorrow will be like its recent Back to School campaign but feature Apple Store cards instead of iTunes cards with purchases. As you can see in the example from the Australian store above, the Apple Store gift cards will vary in amount based on the product purchased. Australia crossed the date line at 8am EST, giving us a glimpse into the sale Apple is launching in the U.S. at midnight PST.

Although the gift cards appear to be worth more than the equivalent discounts at Apple's Black Friday sale last year, ($150 Australian equals $137 US compared to the $100 off last year on a MacBook Pro) the setup does not smack of generosity. Consumers looking for actual sales will go elsewhere, as this roundup from MacRumors shows.

The way the gift card psychology does work aligns with one part of the Black Friday appeal. As we buy holiday gifts for others there is always the temptation to buy things for ourselves. The gift card gives us the promise of buying something for ourselves later while still holding to our immediate non-self-centered agenda for holiday shopping. For Apple of course, the gift cards are the prod for a second cycle of (not-discounted) holiday shopping in December and immediately after.

For those interested in immediate cash money, the table below from that Macrumors roundup gives you a sense of who has the best deals:

- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -

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Sony UK 'ready and willing' to break sales record with PS4

The UK arm of PlayStation believes that pent-up demand for the PS4, coupled with a healthy launch day allocation, gives the new console a real chance to break Britain's all-time sales record.

Currently the fastest selling console in the UK is Sony's PSP, which was sold to 185,000 consumers after just four days on the market. But, hours ahead of Sony's midnight PS4 launch event in Covent Garden, the corporation's UK managing director Fergal Gara said the PS4 could hit new heights.

'Like North America, the UK is a huge priority for us because it sits at the front-end of appetite for new technology,' Gara told CVG.

'With PS4, stock allocation in the UK is very healthy indeed and we go into this ready and willing and break our own previous launch record.'

Microsoft may have already usurped the PSP's record, however. The software giant launched its Xbox One console on Friday and, within 48 hours, had already amassed 150,000 unit sales across the UK.

It is unclear if the company has enough remaining supply to outpace the PSP record. Nintendo's Wii U, meanwhile, sold 40,000 units in 48 hours.

'We can't wind back the clock with PS3, but we are highly ambitious with PS4'

Sony sold around ten million PS2s in the UK, yet lost its grip on the market with the release of the PS3, which has so far sold more than five million units in total. Microsoft's Xbox 360 is far ahead, with total UK sales of more than 8.4 million.

Gara insisted that 'beating the competition is not the most important thing here', but says Sony believes it can close the gap.

'There is definitely an ambition to reduce that gap, but first and foremost the ambition is to be the gamers' choice, and I think one leads to the other. I think we're doing a great job for the gamer, the market share will follow,' he explained.

'The PS3 is now in the twilight of its years, so we're not saying we'll fix the PS3's [market share gap] and we can't wind back the clock, but we are highly ambitious for PS4, and the early demand is superb. We are going to come out of the blocks very strong.

'So we will certainly compete better this time, we've certainly got a better shout with a really great machine at such a great price. We've entered the cycle on time at the target price, with a great feel-good factor among gamers. The support we've had from the community has been humbling.'

He added: 'Satisfying the gamer is the most important thing, satisfying our shareholders is maybe the second. But if we're doing both of those things it is likely we'll be the lead console.'

Elsewhere in his interview with CVG, Gara suggested PS4 could win over casual gamers' hearts, and dismissed industry suggestions that the whole market has declined in the wake of the smartphone games revolution and Nintendo's slump in hardware sales.

'If you compare the core gamer market in the UK to the generation before, there was about ten million PS2s and two million consoles from Nintendo and Microsoft in the UK, so the current generation has expanded from that.

'Of course, within the last generation the PS2 had a good chunk of the casual market with games like Buzz and SingStar, and in this last cycle it was the Wii that grabbed that casual market. So if you combine the Wii and the core consoles, the installed base is about 20 million, which obviously represents huge growth over the previous generation.

'Time will tell which company will have the idea that draws in the mass market again'

'So what is the potential for the market this generation? I would say the core market will remain robust, and time will tell which company will have the idea that draws in the mass market again and excites them the way we have seen in the past. Credit to Nintendo, they did a superb job in the last generation, I think the challenge is for PlayStation to pick up that market.

'We are absolutely focused on the core gamer. Everything in the machine, and the painful and expensive decisions we took to assemble it, has been built for the core gamer. But with a relatively assessable price point on day one, there's no reason not to say you can't pull in the casual gamer earlier in the cycle than usual.'

Google 'spins invisible web' with user data, Dutch watchdog says

Web giant's practice of combining user data from its different services violates data protection law, the agency says.

Google's practice of combining user data from its different services without user consent violates Dutch data protection law, the country's privacy watchdog said Thursday.

A 2012 rewrite of Google's privacy policy gave the company the right to 'combine personal information' across multiple products, including payment information and location data. However, the Dutch Data Protection Authority found that the company does not adequately inform users of the practice in advance nor seek their consent.

'Google spins an invisible web of our personal data, without our consent. And that is forbidden by law,' DPA Chairman Jacob Kohnstamm said in a statement. The finding won't immediately result in any enforcement measures, but Google has been invited to a hearing to determine if such measures are necessary.

Google raised the ire of privacy advocates in January 2012 a privacy policy rewrite that would grant it explicit rights to 'combine personal information' across multiple products and services. The simplified privacy policy, which would replace 60 privacy policies for different services, would only improve the user experience, Google argued.

Opponents of the change sued, saying the move was designed to increase the company's advertising effectiveness. EU officials asked that Google delay implementing its new policy until the privacy implications can be analyzed, but the Web giant declined, saying it had it extensively pre-briefed privacy regulators on the changes and that no objections were raised at the time.

The controversial changes led to lawsuits from the Electronic Privacy Information Center and the Center for Digital Democracy, among others.

After a months-long inquiry into the legality of the changes, French privacy watchdog Commission Nationale de l'Informatique et des Libertes (CNIL) asked Google in October 2011 to amend the policy within four months to better inform users on how their data would be used and set more precise limits on how long data would be retained. In April, the CNIL announced a ' coordinated and simultaneous enforcement actions ' with five other European countries because Google had not implemented any 'significant compliance measures.'

Google, for its part, has maintained that its privacy policy isn't illegal and that the company has consistently cooperated with investigators.

'Our privacy policy respects European law and allows us to create simpler, more effective services,' Al Verney, a Brussels-based spokesman for Google, told Bloomberg. 'We have engaged fully with the Dutch data protection authority throughout this process and will continue to do so going forward.'

iPad Mini Retina more widely available, catches first Mini

Consumers can now waltz into many Apple stores and pick up an iPad Mini Retina for the first time. To date, availability was limited to online sales and pre-orders with customer pickup.

(Credit: Apple)

The iPad Mini Retina is now available for walk-in purchase at Apple stores nationwide. And new data shows that the new Mini has caught up to the original Version in adoption.

As of this week, the iPad Mini Retina is available, for the first time, widely at stores across the U.S., according to checks done by CNET.

Apple stores in Philadelphia, Boston, Chicago, and Los Angeles all had the iPad Mini Retina available for walk-in purchase as of Tuesday afternoon Pacific.

Though not all models were available for walk-in purchase, all stores contacted by CNET had many Wi-Fi-only models and select cellular versions in stock.

Until this week, the Mini Retina had been available in large part (there were a few exceptions late last week, such as New York City stores) only for customer pickup (which requires a pre-order) or through online orders nationwide.

Stores contacted by CNET said the walk-in sales change happened this week.

New data from Fiksu seems to buttress this change at Apple stores. The Mini Retina is now at the same level of adoption as the original Mini, according Fiksu, which samples data from millions of iPads using Fiksu apps.

Carriers, on the other hand, still don't have wide availability. Verizon and AT&T, for example, still show backordered status.

That, however, could change later this week as Mini Retina becomes increasingly available.

Apple's Web page still shows 5 to 10 business days to ship for all iPad Mini Retina versions.

Apple did a low-key launch of the Mini Retina on November 12 amid analyst commentary and reports that the displays were in short supply.

The new Mini sports a 2,048x1,536 resolution display that boasts 326 pixels per inch -- one of the highest of any tablet to date. Analysts believe the display has been a challenge to make in the large volumes that Apple demands.

iPad Mini with Retina display: Apple's little tablet gets a big boost

Microsoft Starts Black Friday Early With Surface, Touch PC Deals

Twiddling your thumbs before you dig into the turkey and stuffing tomorrow? If your wallet can handle it, a number of retailers are having pre-Black Friday sales, including Microsoft.

Redmond has a full lineup of gadgets it will discount at midnight on Nov. 28, but to tide you over, a number of PCs and other devices are already on sale via

The original Surface Pro, for example, is now $100 off. The 64GB version is $699, and comes with a third-generation Intel Core i5 Processor with Intel HD Graphics 4000 and 4GB of RAM behind that 10.6-inch 1,920-by-1,080 touch screen. The Surface Pro is a more powerful machine than its Surface RT counterpart, which will also get a nice discount to $199 starting at midnight on Nov. 28.

If you need something larger, the Dell XPS 18 touch-screen All-in-One with an Intel Core i5 is now $999, down from $1,349, while the HP Envy Rove 20 Touchsmart All-in-One is $799, a $200 discount.

For something more portable, several touch-based Windows 8 laptops are on sale:

13.3-inch Samsung Ativ Book 9 Lite for $699, a $100 discount 11.6-inch Samsung Ativ Tab 7 (2 in 1) for $899, down from $1,199 12.5-inch Dell XPS 12 (2 in 1) with a Core i7 for $1,499, a $200 discount 10.1-inch Asus X102BA-BH41T for $299, a $100 discount 15.6-inch Gateway NV570P10u for $399, down from $649

If you're not quite ready to shell out for an Xbox One, meanwhile, an Xbox 360 4GB Kinect Holiday Value Bundle is $249.99, down from $299.99. It comes with the Xbox 360 E console, Kinect sensor, two Kinect games, and one month of Xbox Live Gold.

The Xbox 360 250GB Kinect bundle is $349.99, down from $399.99. It includes the Xbox 360 E console, Kinect sensor, three games, and one month of Xbox Live Gold. An Xbox 360 bundle with Halo 4 and Tomb Raider, and one month of Xbox Live Gold is $249.99, a $50 discount.

Gears of War: Judgment for Xbox 360 is also now $19.99, or $20 off.

For more, check out PCMag's Best Deals Today. And check back on Microsoft's site at midnight for more deals.

Top tech deals on Black Friday [Photos]

Black Friday is nearly here and there are countless deals in stores and online. Here are five tech deals that you may want to check out.

Samsung Galaxy S 4 for $0 at Best Buy

The popular Samsung smartphone is currently available in stores and online at Best Buy for $0 with a two-year contract. Normally, the Galaxy S 4 costs $249. The retailer is selling the device in numerous different color options that work with AT&T, Sprint and Verizon. The deal ends Saturday.

$75 gift card with iPhone 5s and iPhone 5c at Wal-Mart

If you're looking to buy a new iPhone, Wal-Mart may be the place to do it. Starting at 8 a.m. Friday, the retailer will give customers who purchase a new iPhone a $75 Wal-Mart gift card. The iPhone 5s will be available for $189 while the iPhone 5c will cost $45, so you could essentially make money by buying the cheaper of the two devices. The deal is available when users purchase the gadgets with two-year contracts from Verizon or AT&T.

Gift cards with iPad Air, iPad mini with Retina at Target

The iPad Air and iPad mini with Retina just came out this month, but Target has a deal on both. Customers who purchase either version of the iPad mini, either last year's or the new Retina model, will get a $75 Target gift card.

The retailer will also give customers a $100 gift card whenever they purchase any version of the full-size iPad. That includes the iPad Air, which is available at a discounted starting price of $479. The deal kicks off on Thursday.

$199 Microsoft Surface at Best Buy and Microsoft Store

At $349, the Microsoft Surface is still a tough purchase for a tablet/laptop hybrid with poor battery, but at $199, you've got a deal.

The 32 GB tablet will be available at its $150 discounted price from Best Buy starting Thursday. Microsoft will also sell the tablet at that price.

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12.9in iPad said to be coming late 2014, iWatch facing delays

There'll be nothing 'air' about it

We thought that rumours of a 12.9-inch iPad launching early next year were too ambitious, and it sounds as though we were right to be cautious.

The occasionally-reliable Digitimes is reporting that manufacturer Quanta Computer has landed the contract to product the larger tablet for the second half of 2014, according to sources in the 'upstream supply chain'.

If true, this means that a larger iPad is indeed on its way, with Digitimes' sources suggesting that the large iPad is aimed at 'education and enterprise' markets.

But according to the same report, Quanta might face some challenges with assembling the super-sized tablet due to its 'industrial design'.

Max power

As for the iWatch, the same report also says that pilot production for the device has started, with Quanta and Foxconn Electronics taking charge.

However, due to 'low yields' - a low number of finished products rolling off the production line actually fully functioning and able to be sold - mass production is said to have been pushed back from the first quarter of next year to the second.

Looks like Apple's iTV might be on the backburner while it deals with all this, even if it did just buy 3D motion-tracking company PrimeSense.

Here's everything we (think we) know about the iWatch so far

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