Apple ‘iTV’ rumors abound: iTunes creator leading development, 2013 release

The hot new thing on the Apple rumor mill is a Cupertino-designed television, christened by Steve Jobs himself, which could -- maybe, possibly, fingers-crossed -- hit stores in 2013.

Apple is making a television – at least, that’s what it would seem, judging by the flurry of news about the newest mythical iDevice that has bombarded the tech news world over the past 24 hours. If the rumors are correct, however, the living room could become the latest dominion to be conquered by the Kings of Cupertino.

The latest news out this morning is that Jeff Robin, who played a pivotal role in the creation of the iPod and iTunes, is leading Apple’s development of a television, according to an unnamed source who spoke with Bloomberg‘s Adam Satariano. Two additional unnamed sources also contributed to the details of Satariano’s report.

Of course, we find it increasingly difficult to believe any Apple rumors based upon anonymous hearsay alone. And then there’s the fact that we’ve heard about all of this in the past, without ever seeing such a device come to market. This time, however, we do have a bit of trustworthy corroboration that more or less proves Apple has a TV in the works, and that it is more than just an internal prototype that will never enjoy a stint on a Best Buy shelf: Steve Jobs confirmed it.

According to the newly released Jobs biography by Walter Isaacson, Steve Jobs told Isaacson that he had finally solved to TV set conundrum, and that it would be – you guessed it – revolutionary.

“He very much wanted to do for television sets what he had done for computers, music players, and phones,” writes Isaacson. “’I'd like to create an integrated television set that is completely easy to use,’ he told me. ‘It would be seamlessly synced with all of your devices and with iCloud.’ No longer would users have to fiddle with complex remotes for DVD players and cable channels. ‘It will have the simplest user interface you could imagine. I finally cracked it.’”

Piper Jaffray analyst Gene Munster says that Apple currently has a prototype, and may bring the television to market sometime in 2013, based upon conversations he’s had with Apple’s Asian suppliers.

We could literally spend hours guessing what kind of already-existing Apple features – things like Siri and iCloud – might make their way into an iTV, and how that would potentially change the television industry as a whole. But for the sake of good ol’ fashioned skepticism, we’ll leave the speculation to the analysts, this time around.

We are interested, however, in what you think about a potential Apple TV set. Can Cupertino do it right this time? Would you buy one, even if it costs and arm and a leg to get it?

Nokia Lumia 800 Could Be the Best Windows Phone Yet

Nokia Lumia 800, the company’s flagship Windows Phone device, has been officially launched at the Nokia World conference in London today.
However, I had a chance to spend a little bit of time with the Lumia 800 prior to the launch. Not enough time to write a review–I can’t speak to the call quality or battery life — but I can say that it felt great in my hand, had a gorgeous screen and a truly winning form factor.

f any company matches Apple when it comes to industrial design for their mobile phones, it’s Nokia. Nokia might not have the same panache or flair for crafting beautiful looking devices, but the company certainly thinks about every little detail.

I’ve been told that Nokia really goes the extra mile when it comes to crafting its handsets. The polycarbonate shells for phones aren’t simply sprayed with paint on the exterior. The whole of the material is dyed so that if scratched, the phone maintains its color. Nokia even tests various lotions creams against the materials it uses to make sure that the exterior of its devices won’t stain.

This precision and attention to detail was made clear in a recent video showing off how the N9 is made. The N9, Nokia’s first and last MeeGo phone, was unveiled in June. Although doomed from the start because of Nokia’s decision to partner with Microsoft and focus on creating Windows Phone devices, the device is beautiful.

Fortunately, all of that hard work and engineering hasn’t gone to waste. The new Lumia 800 takes the N9 design, adds a dedicated camera button and replaces MeeGo with Mango (Windows Phone 7.5).
The Feel

The first thing that struck me about the Lumia 800 was how it felt in my hand. It was light, yet it didn’t feel insubstantial. It seemed to weigh less than my iPhone, but unlike some other devices, it didn’t feel of lesser quality.

Likewise, the shape of the device was very well thought out. The sides of the device are curved, but the top and bottom taper and become flat.

The screen, which I’ll discuss in more detail below, is curved to the design but done so in such a way that it looks and feels as if it is all one single piece of material.
The Screen

The pixel density may not match what Apple is offering in the iPhone 4/4S, but the screen that Nokia is using for the Lumia 800 is a thing of beauty.

Using Nokia’s own version of Super AMOLED Plus, the blacks were black, the colors vibrant and text a joy to read.

Beyond that, the feel of the screen itself was smooth and responsive. The curve of the glass fit so nicely with the fit of the phone that it just felt right in a way that the curved glass of the Nexus S just didn’t feel right to me.

I didn’t have a chance to use the camera other than to load up the software — but the Carl Zeiss optics have a good track record in past Nokia phones.

Nokia has always put lots of efforts into its camera optics and if the Lumia 800 is as good as the N9, users are in for a treat.

When I got to handle the Lumia 800, I did so alongside a number of other Windows Phone devices. Some of these have been announced and some are still prototypes. With Windows Phone, Microsoft has given manufacturers a minimum set of requirements that must be matched.
Phone makers, at their own discretion, can tweak things like the size of the screen, the power of the camera and the speed of the processor. I think this is a smart approach because it ensures that each phone will maintain a minimum set of requirements, but still lets phone makers switch things up to differentiate themselves from the rest of the market.
Despite seeing a lot of nice looking phones from all ends of the market, the Lumia 800 was clearly the best looking, best-feeling and most-promising phone of the bunch.
To Microsoft’s credit, on the software side, it seemed just as quick and responsive as any other phone running Mango. Microsoft is still in the early stages with Windows Phone. The full push to Mango took place earlier this month and users are giving it solid marks.
Having spent some time with Windows Phone on and off over the past year, I like the OS. I’ll be blunt, I’m an iOS user and I don’t see that changing any time in the near future. Having said that, I’ve long-maintained that Windows Phone would be my second choice for a mobile OS. That was before the release of Mango and before the Lumia 800. The time I’ve spent with Mango in the last few weeks has impressed me.
Microsoft is doing some interesting stuff with voice search that is similar to what Apple is doing with Siri. The Microsoft voice recognition isn’t as good, as the types of functions and activities that can be controlled with search aren’t as well defined. Still, it’s clear Microsoft is thinking about approaching navigation, discovery and mobile search in new and unique ways.
Microsoft has done something really special on the software side that allows users to pin certain functions of an application — like just the voice reminder function of Evernote — to a home screen. In short, the software that Microsoft has been building is great. What the company has needed, however, is flagship hardware.
As nice as some of the other Windows Phones are — and they are nice — nothing before the Lumia 800 really stood out against the smartphone competition. That’s changed.

Nokia Shows Off Flexible Mobile Device of the Future

Look what Nokia has done with this mobile gadget — Nokia calls it a “kinetic device,” a prototype with a flexible display the company showed at Nokia World 2011 in London.

Instead of the pinch-to-zoom capabilities copied throughout the smartphone industry, Nokia has come up with a novel way to accomplish the same thing: When you bend and twist this handset, the image on its screen does your bidding in a highly intuitive way.

One of the advantages Nokia touts for such a device is the ability to use it without looking at it — for instance, twisting it in your pocket to dismiss a call or change song on a music player.

How does it work? According to CNET, a Nokia demonstrator said the company was experimenting with bundles of carbon nanotubes whose electrical properties change when they’re stretched. Those nanotubes are embedded in a flexible substance that allows the device to control the screen when twisted and bent. An additional advantage: The device is much tougher — and is water resistant, too.

We’ve heard of displays that might be capable of folding like a newspaper and rolled up like a tube, but the idea of controlling by bending is different. Imagine the possibilities: Perhaps it could be used by blind people, where the bending properties of the device would not require vision to intuitively control a smartphone.

When will we see such a thing in the real world? Nokia’s not saying precisely when its kinetic device will be released, but one rep tells IntoMobile in the video embedded below, “hopefully soon.”

How Google Could Bring iTunes To Its Knees

According to multiple sources, including Android boss Andy Rubin, Google's full-blown, socially integrated music store is very close to launch. Mobiledia reports that users will be able to share songs with members of their Google+ circles, who will then be able to listen once for free before deciding whether or not they want to purchase.

Google Music will likely be an extension of the cloud-based music storage service Music Beta, which Google launched five months ago to mixed reviews.

The Music Beta site, currently accessible by invitation only, has been criticized for being slow, difficult to use, and for looking "thrown together." It has also been the main reason that several major labels refuse to be connected with Google's potentially grand plans for a larger Google Music service.

While record companies would like nothing more than an alternative to iTunes, Google has only acquired a signed license agreement from one of the four major record labels: EMI.

While Universal is also tentatively on board, The Wall Street Journal reported on Monday that Sony Music Entertainment or Warner Music Group are unlikely to join. "Sony execs [...] worry that the online locker could appear to be a tacit endorsement of piracy, because it would work equally for pirated songs and purchased ones," reports the Journal. Apple charges $25 a year for its iCloud storage service, announced in June.

However, sources who spoke with The Wall Street Journal, say that Google plans to launch the music store with or without the participation of Warner and Sony. Mobiledia writes that this is a risky move, because if users can't find the songs they're looking for, they are likely to go elsewhere for music.

In April, All Things Digital reported that after spending a year working on a music store, Google's talks with the record labels were "broken." In the same article, ATD speculated that Google might follow in Amazon's footsteps and launch a cloud-based music storage system without permission from the labels. Which is what Google did indeed end up doing in May.

But if the performance of Amazon's service is any indication, Google Music will certainly have its work cut out for it. According to the L.A. Times, Amazon's music store only commands 10 percent of the digital music download market whereas Apple has 70 percent. In April, the online retailer, whose songs were already cheaper than Apple's, lowered prices even further in an effort to unseat the music behemoth. However, according to a digital music analyst consulted by the the L.A. Times, it didn't work.