For many retailers across the pond, Black Friday represents the official start of the holiday season, the one where they are set to rake in the billions and hopefully cap a cautious 2012 with a significant boost to their bottom line. That’s the theory. For customers and bargain hunters, however, it has been a mixed bag. There are still some fantastic bargains to be had like a £98 Amazon Kindle Fire tablet from Carphone Warehouse (£1 less than Amazon’s own) or that incredible Sony Double Full HD 3D Flash memory camcorder discounted from £919 to £250 (sold out). Check out some of the deals that we’ve managed to dig out for our readers ranging from a £138 Sony PS3 gaming console to a discounted £359 Apple iPad Retina display 4th generation tablet. Bear in mind, too, that many online retailers and all major supermarkets in the UK (like Ebuyer, Misco or Sainsburys) have kickstarted their own sales to coincide with the Black Friday period.
Speaking of coincidence, HP held a major conference in Barcelona this week where it showcased two technological cornerstones, despite the ongoing blame game sparked by the whopping $8.8 billion write-down on its Autonomy purchase. The Barcelona event was the first time printers using the PageWide inkjet technology, the Officejet Pro X-series, were demoed in Europe. Put simply, PageWide has the ability to make laser redundant in the medium term at least in the business arena. Other HP rivals are on the brink of offering similar inkjet technologies which could hasten the demise of the good ol' laser printer. The other innovation that caught our eye was the beta version of HP Flow, the first Autonomy-based solution to be integrated with HP products. Flow is central to what one senior HP employee calls the company’s transformation into an “end-to-end printing workflow provider” and has started life as a fairly standard document management system.
Perhaps stung by the apparition of the HTC Droid DNA smartphone, which sports a full HD display, Samsung has apparently decided to launch the follow up of the Samsung Galaxy S3, unofficially coined the Galaxy S4, at CES in January 2013. That would be the third flagship smartphone from Samsung in nine months (after the Galaxy S3 and the Galaxy Note 2). It should be noted that Samsung tends to stay away from the crowds, preferring, like Apple, to have the floor all to itself. Which explains my skepticism about a Q1 launch for the S4. The phone is likely to have the same Cortex-A15 system-on-chip as the Samsung Series 3 Chromebook, the Exynos 5250 (or a variant) and a full HD display with a resolution of 1,920 x 1,080 pixels. One can also expect a better camera (we’ve been stuck with an 8-megapixel shooter since the S2) and hopefully a more enticing array of features compared to the S3.
This one probably registered just a blip on most people’s radar but stands out as one of the more important news items of the week for two reasons. Intel has licensed certain technology and patents from ZiiLABS, a company owned by Creative Technology (commonly known as Creative Labs) and has also acquired certain engineering resources and assets related to its UK subsidiary ZiiLABS Limited (formerly known as 3DLABS Limited). It appears that Intel has decided to buy the graphics assets of ZiiLabs rather than the whole company – which also designs ARM-based system-on-chips, known as the ZMS series.
To spice things up, Intel also owns 14 per cent of ZiiLabs' much bigger rival, Imagination Technologies, which is also based in the UK and manufactures PowerVR GPUs. ZiiLabs is one of the few vertically integrated ARM SoC designers (the three others being Qualcomm, AMD and Nvidia) and mainly competes against ARM’s Mali and PowerVR’s SGX series.
Old hacks will remember the days when 3DLabs ruled the world of high-end graphics with extravagant graphics cards like the Wildcat 6110 which were used in many graphics workstations worldwide until they were pushed out by the likes of Nvidia and ATI with their Quadro and FireGL products. Intel will almost certainly use 3DLabs’ knowhow and intellectual property, in its own graphics products (to beef up its GPU). Should it also find its way into the company’s Many Integrated Core (MIC) architecture, that would be a tad ironic (3DLabs would face the same companies that caused its downfall in the first place).