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Weekend Roundup: Sony Xperia Z leads phablet surge at CES, Nvidia Shield is scrutinised, governments take fight to cybercrime

Phablets multiply at CES

Where to begin with CES 2013? Keeping up with the barrage of new products and technologies unveiled at the show has been a breathless affair back here in London, so credit to ITProPortal’s team on the ground in Vegas who have been bypassing meals, sleep and personal hygiene to report on every bit of the action.

The smartphone’s journey from novelty gadget to our default personal assistant means developments in mobile naturally draw a huge amount of attention, even with all the other distractions at CES, and the show highlighted a clear pattern emerging in the sector: smartphones are getting bigger. Samsung’s Galaxy Notes no longer have the phablet category all to themselves as rival manufacturers are now throwing their own jumbo handsets into the market at a rate of knots.

The headline phone of CES was the Sony Xperia Z (pictured), which sports a 5in 1,080 x 1,920 pixel display, a quad-core Snapdragon S4 processor, and a 13-megapixel camera. Many were also excited by the fact the Xperia Z is completely waterproof – a nice touch yes, but without wanting to brag, us owners of the unsung Panasonic Eluga were taking calls in the shower and dropping our phones in pints of beer to impress people on Friday nights throughout most of 2012, so let’s not overstate the novelty of this particular feature.

Further bolstering the phablet ranks in Vegas this week was the whopping 6.1in Huawei Ascend Mate, the ZTE Grand S LTE, and the entry-level Kogan Agora costing just £119. If you’re one of the many people who baulked at the size of the Galaxy Notes when they first reared their big AMOLED heads, you may well be shaking your head at the seemingly unstoppable growth of this form-factor. But according to Samsung the phablet is here to stay, so you might as well suck it up and get ready to dig out those generously-pocketed combat trousers you haven't worn since the '90s.

Nvidia Shield: sink or swim?

Elsewhere at CES, a major addition to the gaming arena created a real buzz among the assembled hordes on Monday, in a launch that had the all-important bonus of being a genuine surprise - a rarity in the age of constant speculation, leaks and product countdowns.

Not content with launching its new Tegra 4 mobile SoC, Nvidia dropped Shield, a fully featured handheld gaming device running Android that instantly had tongues wagging. Among those predicting big things for Shield is our own Riyad Emeran. Working in the console's favour he says, is the inclusion of the aforementioned 72-core GPU Tegra 4 processor, a completely vanilla version of Android, a perfectly ergonomic piece of hardware, the ability to choose between playing on its impressive 5in built-in screen and your own HDTV, and the “killer feature” - being to pair Shield with your computer and play PC games remotely via the cloud.

But that’s not enough for James Plafke, who argues that stiff competition and the fact Shield can be seen as ‘just another Android console’ will ultimately consign Nvidia’s project to failure. Many a console has arrived with great hardware, he says, but this is rarely what determines the overall success of a gaming platform. Could Shield may lack the originality and appeal on the software front to carve itself a meaningful space in the market?

With pricing and games yet to be announced for Shield, we’ll have to wait a little longer before deciding, definitively, if the console will create the same excitement among consumers as it did among the press at CES.

Authorities step up fight against cybercrime

While CES has quite rightly been stealing most of the limelight on ITProPortal this week, we’ve nevertheless been keeping our fingers close to other tech pulses, and notably, cyber-security has attracted a fair amount of discussion.

Such 'discussion' usually consists of a few IT experts saying online threats are growing, authorities aren’t taking it seriously, we’re all at more risk than ever, et cetera, et cetera. And though there was still a healthy amount of this sentiment flying around, we have evidence that the authorities may genuinely be taking these issues more seriously, and that tackling cybercrime will justifiably become a more central part of government policy. The Cabinet Office aims to take action my introducing a wide-reaching educational initiative this year to improve understanding around Internet security, targeting both businesses and the general public, and focusing on all age groups from small children upwards.

This has been followed on a wider scale by the EU, which opened its brand new European Cybercrime Centre in The Hague on Friday. Something you often hear when speaking to security professionals is the burning need for more dedicated organisations that deal with cybercrime on an international scale – a point that was emphasised heavily when I analysed online law enforcement with research group Team Cymru last year. Both the victims and perpetrators involved in major cybercrimes span across a number of countries and the authorities have to act fast to deal with incidents effectively, so it is interesting to see the launch of a multi-nation cybercrime centre that can pool together all of Europe’s resources and intelligence to fight a growing problem.

Yes we have seen projects like this founded before, but if the actions at the EU centre back-up the rhetoric of its founders, we may well see the dawning of a new era in the war against cybercrime.