What The iPad Mini’s Up Against: Asus Reports Nexus 7 Sales Approach 1 Million Per Month

(Fly or Die) Google Nexus 7

Asus CFO told The Wall Street Journal late Tuesday that the Nexus 7, Google’s well-received, affordable 7-inch Android tablet was nearing 1 million in sales per month, having picked up the pace considerably over the last month in particular. Chang noted that unit sales rose from roughly 500,000 around the time of its introduction in June/July, and rose steadily after that. Tablet sales for Asus beat analyst expectations, likely as a result of the Google-branded Nexus device, which got an update earlier this week in terms of base storage specs at both price points.

The Nexus 7 sales, which would seem to end up totalling somewhere around 3 million based on the figures Chang shared, might be the glimpse yet we’ve had at the current size of the small tablet market. It’s a stat that will prove important for those watching the tech industry going forward, as Apple’s iPad mini debuts this upcoming Friday, and following that we’ll likely get more info from Cupertino about how iPad mini sales have fared so far, if the company sticks with its usual pattern of release early sales figures post-launch.

The Nexus 7′s success might be the most concrete standard against which to compare its progress, as there’s precious little data out there about how others have done in the smaller tablet market. Amazon has been notoriously quiet about Kindle Fire sales thus far, noting recently that the iPad mini announcement “tripled” sales of the Fire HD, but not talking about specific sales volume. An estimate by Asymco’s Horace Dediu from the end of August put sales figures for the Kindle Fire’s first nine months on the market at around 5 million units, however.

On the Apple side, the company sold nearly 60 million iPads during its 2012 fiscal year. But that’s a different market, one that Apple forged itself. How the iPad mini performs remains a separate question, even though Apple on stage at its event last week framed this as essentially a way to replicate and continue that existing success. Still, the iPad mini goes on sale in many more countries with an ecosystem that’s much more globally available than its small tablet competition, so it’s fair to assume Apple will beat competitor device sales, but by how much remains a key question.

Regardless of how the competition fare, the Nexus 7 sales numbers are promising for both Asus and Google, in a market where any individual manufacturer’s Android-powered tablet hardware has had trouble gaining a decent foothold. And I wouldn’t be surprised if the Nexus 7 line picks up even more momentum now that Google has updated its base specs, and will soon add more software features, like user account switching, via Android 4.2.

TechCrunch » android

Closing In On 30M Users, Waze Goes Big On Social: Adds Facebook Connect, Pickup Requests, Location Sharing & More


Apple’s launch of its new mapping service, the ensuing backlash and management shakeup, have been anything but its proudest moments. Adding insult to injury, As Kim-Mai reported two weeks ago, Apple’s pain quickly turned into a gain for other map makers. However, for most, this was only a temporary blip. Only one company was able to sustain increased marketshare: Waze, which saw its share of U.S. iPhone users jump from 7 percent to 10 percent.

Of course, while Waze has been able to benefit from Apple’s stumbles and continue to grow its user base, in the end, quality product and user experiences tend to matter more than size. So, to sustain its traction, Waze is today betting that, by offering a more socially-integrated user experience it can continue trending in the right direction and avoid those pesky diminishing returns.

In addition to its newly designed maps, moods and interface (graphic redesign), Waze now allows users to see friends that are driving to their destination, along with the ability to share drives, pickups and meetup spots and communicate status from the road. Users can now also check in to their destination without leaving the app.

On top of that, Waze is adding Facebook single sign-on so that drivers can log in from The Social Network and take their social graph with them on their drives. More importantly, this Facebook integration allows drivers to collect friends around a shared destination point, distribute directions, short cuts and all that good stuff.

Waze also now serves convenient shortcuts so you don’t have to continue navigating, you can mute audio directions, drop parking pins and track friends and loved ones on their route to and from destinations.

This new social functionality could be attractive to many Waze users, especially because it saves them from having to explain where they are or do so by text (probably while driving). Instead, users can send a pick up request to friends, which shows the recipient their location and allows them to navigate directly.

While you wait for your friend to pick you up at the bar, you can watch a live map of their route and get an ETA, even if you don’t have Waze. That last part being a key differentiator with, say, Lyft, which offers a live-ish view as you wait for your pink mustache ride to arrive.

On the one hand, this experience could be great for kids (and spouses), because they no longer have to ask mom when she’s going to be home for dinner. They can just follow her homebound progress on Waze, with an updating ETA. On the other hand, for teenagers, philanderers, fugitives and anyone who doesn’t want parents, loved ones, or the local police force following their every move, there’s a chance this socially integrated, realtime GPS tracking might not be so appealing.

To address this, Waze has built privacy protection mechanisms into its new social experience, which allow users to control the way in which they interact with the app’s new social layers. Most importantly, this includes the ability to “go invisible” and hide from the map at anytime. Though I’m sure moms will figure out how to hack their way around that roadblock.

The fact of the matter is that, leading up to the launch of iOS 6, many were cautious in their future predictions for Waze — given that Apple was set to debut built-in turn-by-turn directions and that Google had already done so for Android. Those doubting the long-term viability of third-party navigation apps were far from crazy.

Of course, Apple Maps disappointed to say the least and Waze’s growth has shown no signs of slowing down. In fact, for Waze, sustaining its gain in marketshare in the wake of the Apple Maps fiasco ended up being one more quiet victory in what appears to have been a series of quiet victories for the Israeli navigation and traffic app.

To wit: In July, Waze announced that it had reached 20 million users, half of which were added over the previous six months — with 1.8 million new users joining in June alone.

As part of its announcement today, the startup also revealed that its user base has since increased to 29 million, which means that it has seen approximately 9 million downloads over the last four months. What’s more, Waze told the Wall Street Journal at the end of September that it had reached 26 million downloads. Now at 29 million, that works out to about 3 million downloads in just over one month.

So there’s that.

Of course, this is a marathon, not a sprint, and iOS navigation will get better. But with reliable directions that improve with scale and by offering in-transit communication and social functionality, check-ins, Facebook sign-on, automatic shortcuts, private messaging, and features like the indication of toll road usage in routing, Waze’s stamina (and defensibility against the Big Boys) is starting to look a lot more convincing.

Waze on the App Store here and Google Play here.

TechCrunch » android

Mac User Rolls His Own Fusion Drive And Details How You Can, Too


Apple announced Fusion Drive along with its new Macs and iPad mini last week, and while it may have seemed like a straightforward hardware option only available from Apple itself, it’s actually more about how OS X handles storage, startup and other operations at the software level. Which means, as Mac developer Patrick Stein has proven on his Tumblr (via MacRumors), you can create your own Fusion drive at home with some Terminal action and existing hardware.

For his test, Stein used an internal 120GB SSD attached to an older Mac computer via SATA, and an external 750GB HDD plugged in via USB. You could also theoretically set up the same thing using two internal drives, however, if you’re using something like OWC’s data doubler to replace your optical drive on an older MacBook Pro with a second form of storage. You have to have a computer capable of running OS X Mountain Lion, specifically version 10.8.2, of course, but otherwise any type of SSD or HDD combo should technically work. And while it’s not likely practical or even wise to run a Fusion setup where your big, long-term data storing component is an external drive attached via either Thunderbolt or USB (what happens when you have to unplug and go mobile?), this could be a great performance enhancer for older iMacs (though that could require some serious surgery), Mac minis or the poor, languishing Mac Pro.

For full details on how to accomplish this trick, check out Stein’s Tumblr post. Note that this does require you to dig into Terminal and get your hands dirty with command line input, and would be a very risky undertaking for most users, but for DIY types (with ampble backups in place) it’s not all that challengingg. In terms of what you’ll see once it’s set up, OS X should automatically transfer data that’s accessed regularly to the SSD, and then shuttle it back to the HDD for long-term storage after it hasn’t been called in a while. If you manage to get this up and running, be sure to share your results.

TechCrunch » Gadgets

Microsoft Says Windows Phone 8 Is Like Xbox: Better For Being Late — And Dubs WP8′s Closeness To Windows 8 “A Huge Catalyst”


You may have noticed Microsoft is being especially bullish about its prospects in the smartphone market right now — following yesterday’s Windows Phone 8 OS launch. It’s even trying to talk up its current marginal position – spinning that it’s on comfortable, familiar ground here, and even directly comparing the launch of WP8 to the launch of an underdog Xbox in a market dominated by PlayStation and Nintendo.

Speaking at a press briefing in the UK today, UK Microsoft marketing exec Brett Siddons said the Sisyphean challenge facing Redmond — to transform Windows Phone from an also-ran into a serious, top-three smartphone contender — is actually not so unsurmountable after all, because Microsoft has been here before, and thus knows how to walk this path.

Formerly group marketing manager at the Xbox group, Siddons has just moved over to Windows Phone — as the consumer marketing lead in the UK. ”With Xbox when we came into market there were two big well-established competitors: in PlayStation and Nintendo,” said Siddons. “A lot of people said to us when we launched Xbox, you’re coming into this market too late. But of course it gave us an opportunity to look at what was well established and to do something different with Xbox. And obviously now we’re sitting as market lead.”

With Windows Phone 8, Microsoft is again leveraging the luxury of being last, said Siddons, and this time the twin peaks it’s hoping to summit are Android and iOS.  ”I really wanted to get into Windows Phone… I really feel now is an opportunity for us to deliver something brand new to the market.”

Siddons bypassed the fact that WP8 is not actually a fresh launch: having launched Windows Phone 7 back in 2010, and failing to roll that rock up hill, Microsoft is once again retracing its steps to make a second pass at the mountain range (with its reboot of its reboot).

Ignoring all this recent history, Siddons instead went on to flesh out the advantages Redmond reckons it has this time around, claiming: ”Over the last five years the smartphone really hasn’t changed. If anything, with more and more apps coming on board, it’s actually got more complicated for the average consumer to be able to manage that device. We’re actually asking the consumer to work harder to get that information out of multiple sources and that’s where we think we have the big, big opportunity with Windows Phone — where we actually make the phone work harder for the individual. To be able to give them that information that’s personal and relevant for them.”

Again, though, being different to Android and iOS is not a new thing with Windows Phone 8. So if being different didn’t help ferry the WP7 boulder up the hill the first time around, why should it propel WP8 upwards today?

What is different this time around is the tandem launch of the WP-inspired Windows 8 — which not only looks and feels like Windows Phone, but the two OSes are unified, built on a shared kernel, and interoperable. This is a key difference that will help Microsoft familiarise consumers with the Windows Phone UI through its Windows PCs, apps and services — and effectively do the selling for them.

As Ovum analyst Nick Dillon put it to me yesterday at the WP8 launch, Microsoft now has one story to sell — a story the mobile carriers can buy into and get behind, in a way it never did with WP7. So the coming together of Microsoft’s desktop and mobile narratives looks likely to make WP8 much less of an uphill sales slog.

Microsoft’s UK marketing director also made this point today: ”Windows 8 has launched, and for the first time the interface, the start screen that you had on a Windows Phone is now going to be across millions of devices — so it will become much more familiar to people in a very short space of time. That will be a huge catalyst for us.”

Millions of Windows users tapping away on a Windows Phone style interface — that’s exactly the sort of advantage that could move Microsoft up smartphone mountains.

No wonder Ballmer is feeling bullish.

[Image: Dreaming in the deep south]

TechCrunch » Gadgets

Google Announces The Nexus 10, A 10.1-Inch Tablet With Dual-Core 1.7GHz Processor


As we previously suspected, the Nexus 10 just launched on Google’s blog, confirming what we knew about this 10.1-inch AMOLED device made by Samsung to Google’s specifications. The new device runs a 1.7GHz processor with 2GB RAM. It has a screen density of 2560×1600 pixels which is a bit higher than Apple’s 2048×1536 iPad display.

Google’s official PR didn’t note much about the new devices but a recent leak told us more than enough about the new device.

Dubbed the “the ultimate tablet for watching movies or reading magazines,” the Nexus 10 runs Android 4.2 Jelly Bean and front and rear-facing cameras. It will come in 16GB ($ 399) and 32GB ($ 499) configurations and is available on 11/13.

TechCrunch » android