Archive for February, 2010
A Microsoft representative brought an LG prototype phone running Windows Phone 7 Series to the Engadget Show earlier today. This is the first time Windows Phone 7 Series has officially been seen running on a branded phone. The prototype itself is a QWERTY slider- relatively thin but otherwise generic-looking. Detailed specs are unknown, but we’re told it’s likely powered by a Qualcomm Snapdragon chip. The phone has the required back, home, and search keys, along with buttons for camera, volume, and power. It has a 3.5mm audio jack and a 5.0 megapixel camera with flash. More photos here.
Phones running Microsoft’s upcoming Windows Phone 7 Series OS won’t be out till fall 2010 at the earliest, but that hasn’t stopped word from leaking about what will happen to the company’s existing OS, Windows Mobile 6.5.3.
Looks like Windows Mobile 6.5.x will split into two branches, a Classic Edition and a Starter Edition. Microsoft has thus far only confirmed the Starter Edition, which will presumably be a cheaper, stripped-down version for developing markets. Here’s what a Microsoft rep had to say:
“[Starter will be for devices] with and without Microsoft Office Mobile and supports 2G (GSM), 2.5G (CDMA2000 xRTT, EDGE, GPRS), CDMA (Rev A, EV-DO Revision A), and TD-SCDMA radios.”
Interestingly, the list does not include support for GSM 3G (HSDPA) networks. If it’s not just a mistake, such a move might be aimed at ensuring that developed markets with widespread 3G use don’t see too many phones running Starter Edition.
We don’t have much solid information on what the Classic Edition would entail, but we believe it may be the new branding for the last updates to the Windows Mobile 6.5.x line, adding touch-friendly features like a UI-wide magnifying glass.
Caing has an interesting article exploring BYD, which is one of China’s fastest-growing manufacturers and has attracted major investments from Warren Buffett (who in 2008 bought a 10% stake in the firm and upped it in August 2009). The firm, whose name stands for “Build Your Dreams,” was founded as a battery and electronics manufacturer in 1995 and in 2002 decided to expand into the automotive sector. While many small Chinese manufacturers are known for designs “inspired” by existing products, BYD has made a science out of copying, cost-reduction, and mass production of batteries, electronics, and cars. In the process, its founder, Wang Chuanfu, has become the richest man in China, with a net worth of $5.1 billion.
In an age of almost fully-mechanized manufacturing, BYD instead uses large, 18th-century style workshops of low-wage employees (of which it has over 130,000), minimizing the use of expensive equipment. The firm’s cars are mostly virtually-identical copies of Toyota models, but sold at half the price. BYD has become quite a success story, becoming the world’s largest supplier of Ni-Cd batteries and the second-largest supplier of Li-Ion batteries, and the firm is applying its reverse engineering experience to an ever-widening array of products. Whether the company’s blatant disregard for intellectual property will allow it to grow outside the Chinese domestic market is questionable. For now, though, even competitors are highly impressed– as one former employee of Chery Auto (another Chinese automaker) shared:
“BYD’s excellent quality imitation cars are tied to the fact that the company has accumulated experience in strict product control from its earlier practices in batteries and the IT sector,” the Chery source said. ”Maybe it’s right. They very well may become China’s flagship auto manufacturer.”
Some examples of BYD’s automotive reverse-engineering, starting with the company’s logo:
Andrew “Bunnie” Huang, co-creator of the Chumby smart alarm clock, posted an interesting exploration of the underside of MicroSD memory card production in China. Huang came across a batch of questionable memory cards purchased directly from Kingston itself and decided to investigate the issue. Turns out the chips were produced in a “ghost shift”– factory workers return to the facility after hours and use spare or rejected material to create cheap but sub-par memory chips, wrap them up in authentic retail packaging, and sell them in the gray market. Huang watched as mom-and-pop shops packaged and sold similar bogus chips, but the most interesting aspect is of course that his original batch had come from Kingston itself.
Kingston is a major memory brand in places like the US, but it lacks production facilities of its own, instead buying “A- grade” chips from Sandisk/Toshiba and Samsung. While the chips generally work fine, they have enough defects that they might normally be rejected by the chipmaker. As a result, manufacturers are happy to sell them at cheaper rates to companies like Kingston, which then pass on some of the savings to the consumer– but in the case of Kingston, it comes at some risk to their brand name.
Earlier this month, an Adobe representative revealed in a post on the company’s official forums that the firm no longer plans to ship Flash 10.1 for Windows Mobile 6.5-based phones, instead opting to go directly for Windows Phone 7 Series. While Adobe had promised a version for WM6.5 just a few months ago, it now claims that the platform lacks necessary APIs. More likely the firm sees WM 6.5 as a dead-end platform, instead seeking to focus its efforts on its successor.
As for WinMo, we have made the tough decision to defer support for that platform until WinMo7. This is due to the fact that WinMo6.5 does not support some of the critical APIs that we need.
The Adobe rep also claimed that the HTC HD2 would be the first Windows Mobile phone to support Flash 10.1, suggesting that the phone will indeed receive an upgrade to Windows Phone 7 Series at some point:
The first WinMo device will be the HTC HD2.
Looks like Microsoft’s finally going to take Xbox Live mobile integration seriously with Windows Phone 7 Series. The upcoming MIX 2010 conference will focus on general app development for the company’s brand-new mobile OS, but interestingly, Microsoft’s plans for the Game Developers Conference (GDC) indicate that the company will be making several mobile-oriented presentations there too. What’s interesting is that GDC will actually precede MIX, so we might find out about WP7 development before MIX itself, and the WP7 presentations are scheduled to take up more than a quarter of Microsoft’s time at GDC.
More details after the break.
British sports car maker TVR may be on the verge of coming back to life, according to a report at PistonHeads. The firm, owned by Russian Nikolay Smolenski, updated its website to indicate a new site is “coming soon” and is reportedly planning to launch an all-new model within a few months, possibly at the Goodwind Festival of Speed in July. TVR’s cars have usually been powered by the company’s own engines, but this time, the carmaker may turn to “crate motors” from Ford or Chevy, which would greatly facilitate US sales (by reducing the homologation expenses required). In any case, expect a wildly-styled two-seater, >500 HP, front-engined, rear-wheel-drive coupe, likely produced in Germany.
Toyota executives are off to Washington this week to face Congressional hearings on the company’s recent bout of safety issues. Every major media outlet is covering Toyota’s unintended acceleration woes, but the carmaker’s PR mess is about to get even worse, as a new internal document has leaked, bragging that the company saved over $200 million by avoiding safety investigations, limiting recalls, and delaying implementation of federal safety requirements.
The Detroit Free Press first came across the leaked document and reported, “Toyota’s leading U.S. executive boasted to the automaker’s Washington staff last summer that they had saved the company more than $100 million by limited any regulatory action on sudden acceleration to a recall of equipment such as floor mats, according to documents turned over to a key U.S. House committee holding hearings on the issue Wednesday. Earlier this month before the hybrid recall, Toyota executives estimated that the unintended acceleration recalls would cost $2 billion in lost sales and cost of extra parts for repairs.”
The slide, obtained as part of a set of documents Toyota was forced to hand over to Congress following a federal grand jury subpoena, comes from a presentation entitled “Wins for Toyota Safety Group.” The claims in it include that Toyota was able to get the government to close its investigation of the Tacoma truck (which suffers from premature frame rust and structural failure) without any recalls, prevent any action on the Sienna minivan’s weak door handles and lock mechanisms, limiting the defective floormat recall on the Camry / Lexus ES, and saving over $100 million by delaying implementation of the federal side-impact airbag requirement, for a total of $255 million in safety-related savings.
Toyota President Akio Toyoda is set to testify before Congress on Wednesday, and this will surely make for some tough questions. While every automaker has such documents floating around internally, and Toyota’s document is not quite the Ford Pinto Memo, the implication that safety was compromised in order to boost corporate profits will further tarnish the company’s once-great but now severely damaged reputation for quality.
Looks like the HTC HD2 will support Windows Phone 7 Series after all. HTC’s flagship Windows Mobile phone meets all the hardware requirements for Windows Phone 7 Series (1 GHz Snapdragon CPU, capacitive multitouch screen, etc.) except the buttons (WP7 requires back, start, search, and camera keys– the HD2 is missing a search and camera key). WinMo.nl came across an HD2 running a test version of 7 Series and reports that it was very snappy- much faster than the phone is under Windows Mobile 6.5. The Zune media app apparently wasn’t working, but, interestingly, the phone seems to be running TomTom’s Navigator GPS software (see the icon in the start screen).
Update: We’re not so sure on this one. Some of the text labels are different from what we saw at the MWC unveiling, and Microsoft seemed to indicate that background wallpapers, as seen here, would probably not be allowed.
Microsoft just wrapped up its Windows Phone 7 Series launch at MWC in Barcelona- here are some videos of the interface:
Update: MSDN Channel9 just posted a 22-minute, more in-depth walkthrough, below.
More below. More >