Better (and cheaper) Than Expected: The Amazon Kindle Fire Tablet is Here

The day has finally come; the tablet market has been upended.  As I argued back in early August, the tablet PC market was due for a shake-up; other manufacturers simply couldn’t hope to move significant quantities of iPad-like tablets at Apple’s price points, and, as I suggested in late July, Amazon was the one company with the resources and will to bring an iPad-killer to market.  Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos vindicated my soothsaying at a highly publicized press conference, where he introduced his company’s hotly anticipated Kindle Fire Android-based tablet, which will retail for a door-busting price of just $199.  In addition to the Fire, Bezos also unveiled a new base-model Kindle, which will sell for $79, as well as the touchscreen-enabled e-ink Kindle Touch, which will come in at two price points; $99 for the ad-sponsored model, and $149 for the ad-free, 3G enabled Touch model.

While the $79 Kindle and Kindle Touch models are certainly newsworthy products, the real story here is the Kindle Fire, which eschews 3G data service, onboard cameras and microphones, and copious storage space (the onboard memory is only 8GB) to bring a bare-bones, high-performance tablet within reach of nearly every gainfully employed American consumer.  Technically, the Kindle Fire is powered by Android, but you wouldn’t know it from using the device, as Amazon clearly spent some time and money customizing the UI, and the snappy, sleek interface bears almost no resemblance to its Honeycomb tablet brethren.  As one would expect, the UI foregrounds Amazon’s various digital offerings—e-books, digital music, and streaming film/video—but what’s unexpected is that the Fire will also come pre-loaded with Amazon’s just-announced, bespoke “Silk” web browser, which utilizes Amazon’s extensive “Elastic Compute Cloud” infrastructure to intelligently pre-load browser content to a user’s device, a strategy that should make for some lightning-fast web browsing. Read More

A New iPhone (or two!) on the Horizon: Sorting Out iPhone 5 Rumors

iPhone photo by marc.flores

We here at Small Biz Go Mobile are a rather prudent bunch, never ones to blindly pursue idle speculation and gossip in the pursuit of boosting site traffic.  As such, we’ve refrained from adding to the Internet-hype-machine’s “coverage” of the next-generation iPhone (which the Webosphere, lacking any official guidance from Apple, has already dubbed the “iPhone 5”).  But, with reputable sources now indicating that Apple will hold an October 4th press conference—at which the announcement of a new iPhone seems almost inevitable—we figured it was time to set aside our editorial discretion, and join in the iPhone 5-speculation fun! Read More

AT&T 4G Is Here! High-speed LTE Network Launching in 5 Cities

Click to Enlarge AT&T 4G Coverage Map

For those who crave zippy-fast data connections on their mobile devices, good news has arrived.  On Sunday, AT&T launched its high-speed 4G LTE network, with the lucky denizens of Atlanta, Chicago, Dallas, Houston, and San Antonio being the first to receive AT&T’s new and improved cellular signals.  If you don’t live in one of the aforementioned cities, don’t fret, as 10 more cities should receive LTE networks by the end of the year. Read More

The Tablet World is Shaking Up: Microsoft Unveils Windows 8 OS with “Metro” UI for You To Touch

Big changes are coming to the Windows OS environment, as Microsoft unveiled the new Windows 8 OS at its BUILD Conference last week. While there are tons of the changes one typically expects from an OS revision—new features, the removal of some older features, etc.—the big news is that Redmond will be taking the “Metro” user-interface design, first introduced in the Windows Phone 7 mobile OS, and applying it as an across-the-board UI for its desktop, tablet, phone, and Xbox operating systems.  Despite the underwhelming sales of Windows Phone 7 devices (Ballmer himself admits that they haven’t sold as well as he’d like), the Metro UI is really slick, and it’s exciting to see that Microsoft is fully committed to re-imagining the computing experience it provides to consumers.

Sure, in many ways, this is simply Microsoft’s response to Apple’s meteoric rise of the past few years, as OSX and iOS offer fairly consistent cross-platform visual design and UI elements.  What’s exciting about the Windows 8 platform, though, is that it’s not Apple-like at all; Microsoft’s clearly put an enormous amount of resources into completely re-imagining the computing experience, and are attempting to essentially out-Apple the competition by releasing a system that’s genuinely innovative and unprecedented.  In many respects, this is probably the most significant new version of Windows since the introduction of Windows 3.1 almost twenty years ago. Read More

Can You Make Money Selling Directly Through Facebook?

Is your small business conducting e-commerce directly through Facebook?  According to a recent study by Ability Commerce, only 10% of the Web’s largest retailers sell products directly through Facebook.  Are retailers simply not hip to the sell-through potential of the world’s most popular social media site?  Or, as I pointed out in my early review of Google+, is this just indicative of Facebook’s long-standing difficulties in integrating e-commerce into its social networking architecture? Read More

Best Buy Combining Forces With Rent-A-Center: A Great Solution for Your Biz’s Short-Term Tech Needs

Yes, the big tech news this week was Apple’s announcement that Steve Jobs officially stepped down as CEO, but given Jobs’ persistently poor health, we all knew that, sooner or later, he would have no choice but to resign.  Rather than adding to the Jobs-resignation echo chamber, let’s focus instead on some news that’s likely more immediately relevant to small business owners; Best Buy’s pilot program with Rent-A-Center.

Essentially, Best Buy will begin incorporating Rent-A-Center kiosks into its brick-and-mortar stores; if customers are unable to get credit approval for that new flat-screen television—or, perhaps, if they just want to outfit a temporary domicile with some high-tech accessories—they’ll be able to purchase the device, sans credit check or down payment, from the RAC kiosk.  Though Best Buy and Rent-A-Center have been fairly tight-lipped on the specifics of the deal, it’s believed that RAC will actually purchase the products from Best Buy, and then sell them to the consumer (who, if they keep the product until it’s paid off in full, will end up paying RAC two-to-six times more than Best Buy’s retail price). Read More

The Risk Is Too Great: HP Terminates Its PC and Consumer Electronics Business

HP’s Q3 earnings call last week was, in a word, a doozy.  CEO Leo Apotheker announced that HP–the largest PC manufacturer in the world–would essentially exit the PC and consumer electronics markets, and focus its efforts on high-margin data analytics services (an announcement that’s more than vaguely reminiscent of IBM’s 2004 decision to sell off its PC division).   Specifically, HP plans on divesting itself of its PC division within the next 12-18 months, and has announced plans to acquire datacenter analytics firm Autonomy Corporation for $11 billion.  While HP’s Personal Systems Group (the company’s internal name for its PC and CE operations) will live on in some form or another, it appears that HP’s WebOS experiment has officially drawn to a close, as Apotheker explains that they “have decided to shut down operations around webOS devices and [will] be exploring strategic alternatives to optimize the value of the software platform and development capability.” Read More

Google is Acquiring Motorola—But What Does it Mean?

This week’s big news is Google’s proposed $12.5 billion acquisition of Motorola Mobility.  There’s been a barrage of news and analysis surrounding this announcement, so we here at SmallBizGoMobile are going to distill it all down, and try to separate the facts from the hype, and the PR buzz from the players’ “real” motivations. Read More

14 Million Americans Using QR Codes Every Month: What Does it Mean for Your Business?

While QR (“Quick Response”) Codes have long been popular in Japan and Europe, the findings of a new study suggest that these matrix barcodes may finally be catching on in the US.  The study, conducted by comScore, tracked the QR code usage of over 14,000 Americans, and found that 6.2% of their sample scanned a QR code during the month of June; extrapolated to the total number of mobile phone users in the United States, this means that roughly 14 million Americans are scanning QR Codes every month. Read More

How HP Plans to Take On Apple and Microsoft By Gambling on WebOS

Last Friday, I wrote about HP’s massive discounts on its Touchpad tablet, and speculated about how these promotions might be the opening volley in a tablet price war.  The article sparked some discussion around the SmallBizGoMobile newsroom, with my editor arguing that the Touchpad can’t measure up to the iPad, and therefore deserves a correspondingly lower price.  It would seem that a number of consumers agree with my editor, as John Paczkowski over at AllthingsD points out that Woot sold only 612 Touchpads during its one-day promotion, while the deal-of-the-day site sold 2,288 Motorola Xooms just a few weeks ago (to be fair, though, most Wooters are pretty savvy shoppers, and since Staples was offering the Touchpad for only $300—$80 less than Woot—it’s likely that most consumers chose the Staples deal).

My enthusiasm for HP’s aggressive Touchpad promotions was rooted not in some partisan love for the Touchpad itself (full disclosure: I haven’t even touched a Touchpad yet); rather, I’m excited to see that HP is taking proactive steps to increase WebOS’s marketshare, as the company is singularly capable of breaking the iOS/Android duopoly in the smartphone and tablet markets, and that would be a good thing for everyone (except, perhaps, Apple and Google). Read More