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Nokia's new flagship N9 gets mixed reviews
by Staff Writers
Singapore (AFP) June 22, 2011

Nokia's latest attempt to win back market share with its N9 phone received mixed reviews Wednesday but analysts said the real test will come when it releases new models using the Windows Phone 7 operating system.

Fans lauded the N9's ease of use without any "home" button -- a feature of the iPhone and other rivals -- while detractors mocked what they saw as its outdated Meego operating system.

Unveiled by Nokia chief executive Stephen Elop at the CommunicAsia telecoms fair in Singapore this week, fans crowded around the company's booth to try out the device.

The N9 has a 99-millimetre (less than four inches), 854 x 480 pixel display and weighs 135 grams (less than five ounces), putting it clearly in iPhone territory.

Its most distinctive feature is an "all-screen" display, with users swiping the screen to switch between applications.

The device also has a function that allows users to link it to dedicated accessories such as a headset or speakers by simply touching the phone against them.

"Being a user of Apple, an iPhone, this is light years ahead of what iPhone 3G does," declared Paul Krzystoszek, operations and marketing manager for Australian Satellite Communications.

"The ease of use... the intuitive nature of swiping across the screen instead of using a button, there's no button on it, the plastic casing, I think they're all things that make it a lot better than what we have already," he told AFP after trying the phone at the Nokia booth.

"Awesome" was how Shahiran Jaafar, chief executive officer of Malaysian firm Microtel Systems and user of an iPhone 3G, described the N9.

"The fact that you can just swipe it and it goes back to whatever screen that you need it to go back to, the fact that it can show all the open tasks that's available, that's fantastic," he said.

"It just dwarfs the iPhone, the iPhone is nothing now."

However, some were unimpressed by the fact that the N9 was still operating on Nokia's MeeGo platform despite the company's impending adoption of the Windows Phone 7 platform later this year.

"I have a problem with... the operating system," said Phoosith Ratpiyasoontorn, a Thai systems integration engineer, lamenting that MeeGo lacked user volume and compatibility with many applications.

Technological consultancy firm Ovum's consumer information technology analyst Tim Renowden said the true test of whether Nokia can reverse its sagging fortunes will be when its new handsets using Windows Phone 7 are rolled out.

"The N9 is an interesting demonstration that Nokia can still build excellent hardware, and it shows the progress made on the MeeGo OS," he said.

"But it doesn't change the fact that most Nokia fans will be waiting for the first Windows Phone 7 handsets to arrive later this year," he told AFP.

"With Nokia's focus shifting to Windows Phone 7 it's hard to get excited about MeeGo on Nokia hardware, despite the apparent merits of the N9 itself."

Ratpiyasoontorn added that the choice for him would be clear if the N9 was stacked up against the iPhone.

"iPhone for sure because the ecosystem, they have a lot more content, more applications," he said.

In Finland, Nokia touted the virtues of Meego as the N9 was unveiled in Asia.

"It reflects a change in philosophy, hardware and software coming together at Nokia in a very specific way to create a device," said Peter Skillman, Nokia Vice President of Services and Meego Design.

"This impacts everything from smartphones to low-end phones right across the board."

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Kinect bringing interactive ads to Xbox 360
San Francisco (AFP) June 21, 2011 - Microsoft announced Tuesday it will bring interactive ads to Xbox360 consoles using the voice- and gesture-recognizing capabilities of Kinect controllers.

The US technology titan unveiled "NUads" technology that it heralded as the future of television advertising.

"I believe that the Kinect platform, and NUads, will unlock the incredible potential of interactive TV, and interactive TV advertising," Microsoft advertising business group general manager Mark Kroese said in a blog post.

Microsoft has been beefing up film and television show content at its Xbox Live service that consoles connect with using the Internet.

Kinect controllers allow people to tell a console to post a video ad in a Twitter update or ask it for more information about a product.

Viewers can use waves of hands to share opinions in polls or send material to themselves by email.

"Simply put, NUads break down the barriers between consumers and content on the TV screen," Kroese said.

"NUads make traditional linear content -- like a 30-second TV spot -- irresistibly interactive," he continued.

Early in June, Microsoft added YouTube, voice commands, television shows and more to Xbox 360 with Kinect as the hot-selling videogame console matures into an entertainment center for all.

Microsoft ramped up voice capabilities in Kinect to allow Xbox users not only to give commands to in-game characters but also to speak Bing searches for games, movies, television shows, music and other entertainment content.

Microsoft has sold more than 10 million of the gesture-sensing Kinect accessories for the Xbox 360 worldwide since they hit the market in November.

Kinect uses a 3D camera and motion recognition software to let people play videogames on the Xbox 360 using natural body movements and voice commands instead of hand-held controllers.

Microsoft has expressed a vision of Kinect moving beyond the living room to medical centers, schools and other places where technology to track skeletal movement and recognize voices could be useful.

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Nokia heralds 'new season' as market share slumps
Singapore (AFP) June 21, 2011
Troubled mobile phone giant Nokia on Tuesday expressed confidence it can reverse its sagging fortunes and remain a market leader amid stiff competition from rivals such as Apple and Samsung. Chief executive Stephen Elop said at a regional telecoms fair in Singapore that the Finnish company was making good on promises to overhaul itself and unveiled a new high-end phone, the N9, to bolster hi ... read more

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