Samsung Galaxy S4 set to land
Once a distant fantasy, the Samsung Galaxy S4 is now set to join the material world and, given the tenacity of the rumour mill, we think we have a pretty idea of what's going to land in a few days' time. A 5in, Full HD display is a lock, while 2GB of RAM is also being taken as a given. But there's far less certainty surrounding the Galaxy S4's processor: we'd come to believe that a monster 8-core Exynos 5 Octa chipset was another sure-thing, but new screenshots (see below) purporting to show the forthcoming device in action reveal a quad-core chipset, likely the Snapdragon 600.
A more detailed look at potential SoCs can be found in our Samsung Galaxy S4 spec roundup, but in short, the discrepancy is likely down to regional handset variations. One of the Korean firm's more irritating habits is to vary device specifications by market, so our best guess is that the quad-core setup pictured in the leaked screenshots is representative of a US-only model.
We're pretty sure that the beastly Octa will still feature on the handset that makes it to British shores in the not-too-distant future, but rather than just taking our word for it, why not check out our regularly updated Samsung Galaxy S4 rumour roundup to see how we got to this point? Make sure to bookmark ITProPortal, as well, because we'll be up burning the midnight oil to bring you coverage of the Galaxy S4 launch on 14 March from 19:00 EST - that's 00:00 GMT on the 15 March for our loyal UK readers.
Matias Duarte: Android's renaissance man
One of technology's great ironies is that while gadgets have a notoriously short shelf life, history tends to look favourably upon those responsible for innovating. A case in point is Matias Duarte. Nerds with a canny memory will no doubt recall the snazzily attired young Chilean taking the stage at CES 2009 to show off WebOS, a revolutionary bit of software that unluckily fell into the hands on Palm during its dying days and has failed to find a loving home since.
Duarte, however, can now count himself as one of the industry's elite: by 2010, he was Google's Director of User Experience for Android. His time in charge of the good ship green robot has witnessed a number of highs, not least the release in 2012 of Android 4.1 Jelly Bean and, more specifically, the arrival of Project Butter.
Project Butter ushered out the wobbly navigation associated with previous versions of Android and heralded the arrival of a platform capable of running at a baby-smooth 60fps. But Duarte's gift has also proved his curse, and in a bizarre twist of fate, the success of Android 4.1 and, soon after, Android 4.2, now seems at risk of jeopardising the current make-up of the Android project. Where the OS was once seen as a starting point for handset manufacturers to impose their own UI vision - HTC's Sense and Samsung's TouchWiz being two of the better known custom Android overlays - vanilla Android is now considered the gold standard by mobile enthusiasts. Coupled with the rise and rise of Google's Nexus hardware line, the company's OEM partners are none too please at being eclipsed, and a serious quandary is emerging. Does Google give Matias Duarte free rein with Android? Or is a degree of creativity-stifling necessary to preserve the firm's wider commercial interests?
Assassin's Creed 4: Black Flag sails into sight
On a strictly personal note, the highlight of the last week for me was Ubisoft's surprise launch of Assassin's Creed 4: Black Flag. Not only does Assassin's Creed 4 look like it's going to be an immensely engrossing title, but it fills a massive gap in the gaming market. Since the first two - three, if you're feeing especially charitable - Monkey Island games in the 1990s, the über-niche pirate gaming segment has been crying out for a saviour. The early-Noughties remake of Sid Meier's Pirates! did a decent enough job of satisfying the needs of bedroom buccaneers from a strategic standpoint, but there's simply no substitute for a full-on adventure epic, and that's exactly what Ubisoft appears to have lined up for us this autumn. High-seas hustling is now well and truly positioned to enter he 21st century, but will it have been worth the wait?
It should be. New screenshots of Assassin's Creed 4: Black Flag are seriously seductive but, more importantly, Ubisoft appears to have really listened to its fanbase. The naval gameplay of Assassin's Creed 3 was widely praised, and it's safe to say that Black Flag will feature its fair share of sailing and slooping, right down to the ability to pimp your vessel which, incidentally, will be called the Jackdaw. Elsewhere, lugubrious Assassin's Creed 3 lead Connor Kenway is on the way out, and new protagonist Edward Kenway - Connor's granddaddy - is firmly styled on the popular Ezio Auditore da Firenze. Edward is described as a boorish drunk with a penchant for ogling barmaids, as well as a clever and charismatic rogue with, well, a penchant for ogling barmaids. We're not quit sure how he will find himself embroiled in the Templar conspiracy, but given what we know about Assassin's Creed 4: Black Flag, it's now close to the top of our gaming wishlist for 2013.