This week has been the warm up/prelude for what will certainly be the most exciting seven days in technology of the year so far, starting from next Monday. In no particular order, we witnessed the fall and rise of Google, with the launch of the new Chromebook following a catastrophic statement blunder, Microsoft Windows RT finally surfacing... (pun intended) and last but not least, Apple’s invites for a mysterious event next week.
Apple’s invites have always been quite cryptic and the latest one, which only says "We've got a little more to show you", almost certainly refers to a little tablet, otherwise known as the iPad mini, which has been at the source of many rumours (and even apparently photographed several times) over the past few weeks. Whether this device will be the only product revealed on 23 October remains to be seen though. Many suspect that Apple will also unveil a new 13in MacBook Pro with a Retina Display to match its 15.4in sibling, while a Mac mini based on Intel’s Ivy Bridge (or perhaps the Apple A6) could appear. We might even see refreshed 9.7in Apple tablets with a new Lightning connector and a Qualcomm baseband chip (to cater for EE’s 4G network in the UK for example). Still, the iPad mini would be a bitter-sweet product since Steve Jobs, the iconic Apple CEO, went on record to express his abhorrence for this form factor. But times have changed; Steve Jobs died just over one year ago and the Google Nexus 7 Nexus has proved to be Apple’s most fearsome rival to date, pairing top notch hardware with an unbelievably low price; the 8GB version costing only £159 while the 32GB model can be had for £200.
Google’s market capitalization was hit hard on Thursday with shares losing up to nine per cent in a few hours, equivalent to around $24 billion or roughly £15 billion. The meltdown started when Google’s financial results were released by accident by R.R Donnelley, with a missing quote from the firm’s CEO, Larry page. The devastating figures showed that Google’s profits had fallen by 20 per cent in the past quarter. The timing of the statement meant that the company was caught short and wasn’t prepared to fight off the consequent FUD (fear, uncertainly, doubt). The share price fall was deemed so abrupt that trading in Google stocks was suspended on the NASDAQ for fear of contagion to other tech companies. This couldn’t prevent the stock market’s Index from falling more than two per cent. Page however did try to point to some positives like a 45 per cent year-on-year increase in revenue but underlying weaknesses like a massive drop in net profit and operating margin still remain a major concern for the company.
But it's not all bad news at Google. An invite for an event to be held on 29 October has been received, where many expect the technology giant to announce a few Nexus smartphones with Jelly bean. Funnily enough, that will happen a few hours before Microsoft officially unveils Windows Phone 8 to journalists. Then there’s that new Chromebook device, the Series 3, which was unveiled a couple of days ago, together with Samsung, which looks like the best attempt yet by the company to make Chrome OS more than just a pet project. The laptop costs only £229 (or £218 until later tonight), far less than its Intel-based predecessors, partly because it is powered by a Samsung SoC, the Exynos 5512 (this is the first time we have seen a product based on the Cortex-A15 and the Mali-T604 in the wild). The rest of the hardware is essentially the same as the Series 5 but with a smaller, higher resolution display. Google has also thrown in 100GB in-the-cloud storage courtesy of GDrive, although that space is only good for two years. Switching to ARM also means that the Chromebook runs cooler and doesn’t even require a fan. A 3G version of the Series 3 will also appear, but those looking to experience the Chrome OS environment on a shoe-string may want to consider the Series 5 which is being cleared out for as little as £140.
Surface will be launched on 25 October and already customers can start preordering the tablet from Microsoft direct for as little as £399. Note that only the ARM-based model, which is powered by a quad-core Nvidia Tegra 3, is available on preorder with the Surface Pro, which is powered by an Intel processor yet to be priced. The tablet has 2GB of RAM, a 32GB SSD, a 10.6in 1,366 x 768 display, a card reader and Microsoft Office 2013 Home and Student edition. Arguably, it is a bit unfair to compare it to the new iPad which has a Retina Display screen, but such comparisons are inevitable. One of the tablet’s strong points is its ability to pair up with a keyboard docking station to transform into a quasi-ultra portable laptop, one that even has a touchpad. Microsoft provided a multitude of details regarding battery life as well as display in a Q&A session on Reddit. MS also revealed that the tablet will be natively compatible with Xbox 360 controllers which may well mean that it will replace the Xbox 360, and its successor one day (not so sure about that - ed).
And we shall conclude this week’s round up with a mention of the exclusive Taiwanese tech press trip of our colleagues, James Laird, performed courtesy of Taitra, one where he got his paws on the Asus Padfone 2 and many other interesting tidbits.
The next weekend round up is likely to be the richest of the year so far with the launch of new Google and Apple devices, exciting Microsoft services and products and a whole new technological landscape by this time next week.