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Google challenges Apple with high-end laptop
by Staff Writers
San Francisco (AFP) Feb 21, 2013


Apple patent filing ups rumors of iWatch
Cupertino, Calif. (UPI) Feb 21, 2013 - Patent filings by Apple suggest the California company is considering an iWatch concept with a flexible touchscreen display, an Apple-watching website says.

AppleInsider says the filings suggest Apple is investigating a wearable accessory device boasting a full-length flexible touchscreen display that would conforms to a user's body through the use of a bi-stable spring "slap bracelet" mechanism.

Such bracelets -- which are straight like a metal tape measure until "slapped" around the wrist -- have been popular with children.

The watch would connect to a portable device like a smartphone or tablet through Bluetooth or WiFi to display information in real time, AppleInsider said.

In addition to displaying information the watch could interact with a smartphone, the filing said.

"With a touch screen user input a user can accomplish a number of different tasks including adjusting the order of a current playlist, and reviewing a list of recent phone calls. A response to a current text message can even be managed given a simple virtual keyboard configuration across the face of the flexible display," the filing said.

Small solar panels could be included in the watch band to boost battery life, the filing said.

Rumors regarding a possible iWatch have been increasing as wearable computing is considered a logical next step for mobile technology, CNET reported.

HP promises 'innovations' as profit dips
San Francisco (AFP) Feb 21, 2013 - Hewlett-Packard, the troubled but biggest maker of personal computers, on Thursday promised "disruptive innovations" after seeing its profit slip in the past quarter.

HP said Thursday its net profit for its first fiscal quarter ending January 31 declined 16 percent from the same period a year ago to $1.2 billion.

But it also marked a rebound from the prior quarter's $6.9 billion loss stemming from a massive write-down in the value of a British company accused of "serious accounting improprieties."

The most recent quarterly results were better than expected, amounting to a profit of 82 cents a share, and revenues also beat forecast despite a six percent drop to $28.4 billion.

HP, which has been struggling amid a consumer shift away from PCs to tablets and other devices, is in the middle of a major restructuring program expected to trim some 29,000 jobs.

Chief executive Meg Whitman said she expected to announce changes at the company as part of the reorganization, but offered no specifics.

"We'll be bringing a number of new programs and disruptive innovations to market in the coming quarters, and we expect the benefits from our restructuring will accelerate through fiscal 2013," she said in a statement.

HP fended off a challenge from China's Lenovo at the top of the PC market in late 2012, according to the research firm Gartner.

But the company has acknowledged struggling in the shifting technology landscape.

An IDC report out Thursday said global tablet sales jumped 78 percent in the past year, while desktop PC sales were down 4.1 percent and portable PCs off 3.4 percent.

IDC said that counting all "smart connected devices," including PCs, tablets and smartphones, HP ranked fourth last year, with just 4.8 percent of the market, and saw a drop in unit sales of 8.5 percent.

Samsung was first, followed by Apple and Lenovo.

Google unveiled a touchscreen notebook computer Thursday designed for high-end users, throwing down the gauntlet to Apple and its MacBooks.

Google said its Chromebook Pixel computers blending tablet and laptop technology, boasting heavyweight Intel chips and screens tailored for rich graphics, were released in the United States and Britain, starting at $1,299.

"People will give up a MacBook Air for this," Google Chrome senior vice president Sundar Pichai said.

A Pixel model featuring built-in connectivity to the Verizon mobile Internet service will hit the US market in April at a price of $1,449.

The newly unveiled version can connect online with wireless hot-spot technology or cables.

"It's a great looking product," Om Malik of technology news website GigaOM said at the Pixel debut in San Francisco.

"But Google is facing a selling problem, they have to compete on price originally and build a developer base for a high-end product."

Google is hoping enthusiasts will forego price comparisons with competitors such as MacBooks or laptops built on Windows 8 software and focus instead on the Pixel's touchscreen feature and the massive terabyte of Google Drive online data storage included.

"It seems like a pretty hard sell," said Forrester analyst James McQuivey. "I hope they are not planning to make a lot of money off it."

While the Pixel seems aimed at the MacBook market, it also faces fierce competition from touchscreen laptops based on Windows 8 software.

"It seems like more of a symbolic product release with Google trying to make a point that it is no longer just a low-end provider of devices," McQuivey said.

Analyst Rob Enderle of Enderle Group branded the Pixel move "a train wreck," arguing that notebook computers above $600 have historically not sold well and that Apple even sells a slick MacBook Air model for $999.

The booming popularity of tablet computers is also eroding the overall market for laptops.

"It just boggles the mind," Enderle said. "I have no clue what the hell Google was thinking."

The announcement adds a new dimension to the rivalry between the two tech giants, locked in a fierce battle over smartphones and tablets.

"This is for power users we expect to live completely in the cloud," Pichai said. "The Pixel is about pushing the state of the art."

Google custom built Pixel and is producing it with the help of electronics manufacturers in Taiwan.

"It is clear that touch is here to stay and that it is the future," Pichai said.

He described the Pixel screen resolution as superior to that on any laptop shipped today.

Within three months, Google will release Quickoffice software for handling documents and spreadsheets after complaints by Chrome notebook users over difficulties when trying to work with Microsoft's widely used Word or Excel software, according to Pichai.

Google's main intent with the Pixel is to more deeply mesh the California-based Internet giant's money-generating products and services into people's lives.

Google was working with third-party application developers to tailor Pixel programs.

"The goal is to get the Pixel in the hands of all our early adopters as well as developers," Pichai said. "We think our ecosystem will respond well."

Google introduced the first Chromebook in mid-2010 in a challenge to Windows operating software at the heart of Microsoft's empire.

The array of Chromebook makers has grown to include Acer, Lenovo, Samsung and Hewlett-Packard, with previous models offered at bargain prices when compared to high-end laptops.

Shifting operating software to banks of servers online means that Google updates programs and fends off hackers and malicious software.

The disk drive-free Pixel machines feature a quick startup and can dive into a user's desktop data from anywhere online.

Google remains devoted to its Android software for powering tablets and smartphones, following two paths when it comes to Internet-synched hardware, according to Pichai.

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