Weekend Tech Scan: Tech rumors, tech memories

We explore rumors of more iPads and Kindles, and -- even as we get comfortable with the idea of "phablets" -- say goodbye to an old friend called Kodak cameras.

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Microsoft's Windows Phone is winning fans. This is a Samsung model using the Microsoft operating system.

We explore rumors of more iPads and Kindles, and -- even as we get comfortable with the idea of "phablets" -- say goodbye to an old friend called Kodak cameras.

If you are a fan of the iPad or Amazon Kindle Fire, here are rumors that might make your heart beat faster

Regarding the iPad:

  • Rumor 1 — Early in March, Apple plans to launch an ungraded version of the iPad.  According to the Christian Science Monitor, a so-called iPad 3 would build on the Retina Display of the iPhone 4 and 4S, giving iPad users a true high-definition screen with resolution outdoing your HDTV set.  The  Monitor quotes sources indicating the tablet could be slightly thicker due to a larger battery, new camera, new screen and other features.  Siri, the popular voiced-control feature of the iPhone 4S, looks also to be a feature on a new iPad.
  • Rumor 2 — Apple may actually defy the Steve Jobs legacy. He famously dissed small tablets, or better, tablets smaller than the iPad’s 10-inch screen size.  BGR, among other bloggers, is saying there will be 7-inch version of the iPad. If so, it would show that even mighty Apple is not immune to market trends: the success of the Amazon Kindle Fire and Barnes & Noble Nook Color and Nook Tablet as proof that the market does hunger for smaller tablets.

Speaking of the Kindle Fire, the rumor mill is whispering that there may a slightly larger version of that device: PC Magazine, in turn quoting AllThingsD, notes that the Kindle may sprout another 2 inches all-round, bringing it within range of the iPad size — which, in turn may produce a shrunken 7-inch version. Whether the tablet would add new features such as an on-board camera or extra storage via an SD card was not even rumor mill fodder.

This is more than a rumor: Windows 8, Microsoft’s latest operating system (OS) whose dramatic tile-like user interface looks more like its new Windows Phone than anything ever conceived for the techie-rich Windows front page, will be officially shown in preview mode on Feb. 29 at a hotel in Barcelona, Spain. That coincides with the annual Mobile World Congress elsewhere in the city, the largest gathering of the world's cell phone mavens.

No release date to the public was announced.

Using a global mobile phone trade show event, even if off site at a hotel, to announce a computer operating system might seem odd unless you understand that Microsoft’s new OS is not just a pretty face on old technology. It signals instead the company’s seriousness when it comes to the global trend toward handheld mobile devices — smartphones and tablets — that is transforming the computing world as we know it.

Microsoft Phones, its new Windows 8 OS, and its best-selling Xbox will all have the same tiled or "Metro" look. Moreover, slowly but surely, most Microsoft-oriented devices will have a common technology (the Windows 8 kernel) that will enable them to talk and work together far more successfully to each other than Microsoft’s current gear.

Moving on, yet another word is entering our language. It's not a smartphone, and not a tablet. It is, instead, a "phablet." Having duly noted last week that the Samsung Galaxy Note, a phablet if ever there was one — will  be available Feb. 19 from AT&T, it’s only fair to warn you that yet another oversize phablet — this one the LG Optimus View — will also debut at Barcelona’s Mobile World Congress — so notes Electronista.  Few details are available other than it will be a powerful smartphone full of the right features (1.5 GHz dual core processor) and slightly wider than the Note.

This is probably only the beginning of phablets. How big do you want your phone to be? How large can you stand it?

And a sad note in technology: Kodak, the company that single-handedly made cameras available to the world, announced this week that it will stop making cameras. According to an account carried by Mashable, Kodak will exit camera manufacturing to concentrate on photo-printing services online and in retail stores, and its line of desktop inkjet printers. Kodak, which filed for bankruptcy protection in January, will save an estimated $100 million by stopping the manufacturing of cameras.

There may be a moment when you’ve heard this news that you’ll recall a special moment — a birthday party, afternoon at the beach, a holiday table, a Christmas tree — and remember taking pictures with your Kodak Brownie Hawkeye. 

Perhaps it was your sister standing in your front yard by the scrawny elm tree, her high school degree held firmly in both hands. Perhaps you remember focusing that boxy plastic camera, half again as large as a Big Mac container — looking down through the glass viewfinder that you held waist-high, adjusting to the oddity of seeing the picture in the viewfinder flopped from left to right (something about “optics”). 

Perhaps you remember what triggering the shutter felt like:a long hard press until you heard that satisfying “click” knowing you had captured her smile—more of a grimace, actually.  She always hated to have her picture taken. You may remember taking that roll of film to the grocery story for processing, waiting a week until the photos came back to you in that familiar yellow envelope.

The photos were a ritual, so obligatory at the time. But opening those same yellow envelopes a half-century later, seeing that smile — she is no longer with us — you realize gratefully that Kodak gave you a time machine that let you capture your life forever.

And how ironic is it that you have outlived the time machine.


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