Tech industry giants are gearing-up for Fall and holiday product releases. What Apple plans to unleash next month is far from certain, but Amazon has already played its hand -- sort of.
The online retailer recently dropped the price of its 7-inch Kindle Fire HD by $40, sparking rumors that a new model might soon arrive. The current 7-inch 16GB Kindle Fire HD now costs just $159 (down from $199), while the 32GB model now goes for less that $205.
Seven-inch tablet technology, however, has come a long way in the past year. The name of the game is screen resolution, combined with a really fast processor. Which brings me to Google. Together with ASUS, Google has taken the original Nexus 7 and upped its game considerably. The all-new Nexus 7 is billed as the sharpest 7-inch tablet screen ever!
The screen resolution is noticeable immediately! With 323 pixels-per-inch, the Nexus 7 is currently unmatched among 7-inch tablets. On top of that, it's actually lighter than its predecessor yet capable of more than nine hours of HD video playback and 10 hours of web browsing/reading. The new model also features stereo speakers and virtual surround sound by Fraunhofer (the inventors of the MP3 format) for rich, immersive audio.
The new Nexus 7 ships with Android 4.3, a new version that includes profiles to impose restrictions on apps/content plus provides access to over 975,000 apps on Google Play. Restricted profiles prevent designated family members from accessing inappropriate content.
Retail stores can also use these profiles to show off product information or for point-of-sale transactions. Android 4.3 also adds support for Bluetooth Smart technology, allowing the Nexus 7 to wirelessly connect to devices like fitness sensors.
All-new Nexus 7 models supporting Wi-Fi (16GB, 32GB) are available now, with prices starting at $229. Google says that models supporting for LTE over T-Mobile and Verizon are also on the way. For more information, visit Google.com.
Chromecast caters to connected couch potatoes
It's no secret I'm a fan of set-top streaming boxes. For years, devices made by Roku and others have provided fuss-free delivery of high-definition TV programs, movies, and other on-demand content via the Web. The new Google Chromecast, however, now makes it cheaper and even easier.
Your begin by plugging the Chromecast dongle into an HDMI port on your HDTV. The unit also requires power (via a short USB cable or AC power supply, both included.) There is no TV-style remote, however. Instead, you use your smart phone, tablet, or laptop to "cast" online content to your TV screen. The system works with Netflix, YouTube, Google Play Movies & TV, and Google Play Music, with more apps like Pandora reportedly coming soon.
The device can be controlled by just about any Android- and iOS-powered device, and unlike some streaming solutions, you can check email or surf the Web while watching TV. All the work is done by the Chromecast dongle, so your tablet or smart phone can multitask.
In addition to content from the purveyors mentioned above, Chromecast also projects any Chrome browser tab to your TV, a feature that Google cautions is still in beta but it works reliably. Currently, the feature is no match for AppleTV's AirPlay, but it's only a question of time before Google closes the gap.
Google Chromecast sells for $35 and is available at Amazon, Best Buy, and Google Play. Be forewarned, however. Initial shipments sold out quickly, because three free months of Netflix was included.
The Netflix promotion has expired, but Chromecast is still backordered at most retailers. It's undoubtedly going to be a hot holiday gift item, so it might be months before Google catches up with the demand. For more information, visit Google.com.