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Apple plans to launch a new smart home platform

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May 26, 2014


It appears that Apple is planning to launch a new 'smart home platform' at June's Worldwide Developer Conference.

It's expected that the new platform will allow Apple iPhones and iPads to control a home's lights, security system and a few other connected appliances.

The new software platform, which will be unveiled at WWDC on June 2nd, will be built into the iOS devices, according to the Financial Times report, which cited anonymous sources.

As with Apple's "Made for iPhone" program, the new platform will be open to third-party device makers, allowing their electronic gadgets to work on Apple's new automation system.

One application of the new software platform cited by the newspaper was the ability to automatically turn on the lights when an iPhone paired with the new system enters a building or home dwelling.

Apple outlined its ideas for a home automation system in a patent filing last November. The move is seen as a big play to challenge device giant Samsung and Google, which in February closed its $3.2 billion acquisition of Nest Labs, a maker of the Learning Thermostat and the Protect smoke and carbon monoxide detector.

As companies increasingly look for opportunities to expand smartphones' reach, home automation is seen as one of new markets for sustained growth.

To be sure, Apple already has made inroads with the automobile sector. At WWDC 2013, the company announced a few plans to better integrate iOS into car dashboard screens.

Dubbed 'Apple's iBeacon location-sensing technology' which debuted late last year on devices running iOS 7, is already in use for indoor navigation, automatic ticketing, and location-relevant promotions.

We contacted Apple this morning for comment on the report and will update you when we learn more.

In other mobile news

We think we just found a pretty good deal a few minutes ago-- HP is offering a coupon for $15 off its already low price for the HP 7 Plus tablet, which the company just added to its lineup of products. So you can get it for just $84.99 while they last.

Just Wednesday of this week, we read with great interest a report that HP had introduced a $100 tablet.

That's quite a bargain for a name-brand tablet, especially one with fairly solid specifications.

So imagine our surprise upon discovering this-- you can get the HP 7 Plus tablet for just $84.99 shipped when you apply coupon code SLICK15HP at checkout. Sales tax may apply in some jurisdictions.

To be sure, we've seen plenty of no-brand tablets in that price range, and the occasional early generation Kindle Fire, but never something like this.

If you're shopping for a Father's Day gift that won't break your budget, you just found it.

Though entry-level in some respects, the HP 7 Plus has a couple of nice features going for it.

The new tablet is white, with a silver rear finish. It also sports a quad-core ARM Cortex A7 processor, which should run all your favorite apps.

For comparison's sake, Amazon's $139 Kindle Fire only has a dual-core chip. Next, although it has just 8GB of internal storage, the 7 Plus includes a microSD slot for easy, inexpensive, and virtually endless expansion.

HP also gives you 25 GB of Box cloud storage, free, for life. The tablet runs Android 4.2.2 (Jelly Bean). We're not sure if HP skins it or adds any bloatware, but ultimately it's much closer to a "pure" Android experience than you get from Amazon's heavily modified version of the OS.

So what's the catch? Like most sub-$100 tablets, HP's 7 Plus has a fairly low-resolution screen: 1,024 x 600. Point of interest, though-- the original iPad Mini ran at 1,024 x 768. That's not ideal for reading small text, but we think it's sufficient for the majority of tablet tasks.

And it's an IPS display, so it should offer pretty solid viewing angles. This was already a sweet deal at $99.99 but now at just $84.99, it's a steal.

We have no idea how long the coupon code will be active, though, so if you want in, you should get going fast.

In other mobile news

Earlier this morning, Microsoft officially unveiled its Surface Pro 3 tablet, a new product aimed at eliminating the so-called 'conflict' that Microsoft sees between a tablet and a traditional laptop. (Not that there is any conflict that is...)

The device features a twelve inch screen and its kickstand, and supports a stylus. In addition, the tablet comes with support for USB 3.0 and Microsoft's popular Type Covers available in several colors.

The Surface Pro 3 features an Intel Core i3, Core i5, and Core i7 processor to increase its performance compared to the previous Microsoft tablet.

Microsoft is saying that it's the first tablet that can replace a user's laptop. The company argues that tablets and laptops have been mutually exclusive, but its new tablet can bridge that gap. Only time will tell if that's true, and we should know more pretty soon.

In order to achieve that goal, Microsoft says that the new tablet is 9.1 mm thick, compared to 10.6 mm on the Surface Pro 2.

The device's 12-inch screen, up from the 10.6-inch Surface Pro 2, was critical, Microsoft says, as it tries to make it compete with laptops.

The display also comes with a 2,160 x 1,440 screen resolution, topping traditional 1080 pixels HD displays already available on the market.

Microsoft was also quick to point out that the Surface Pro 3 comes in at just 800 grams in weight. The company has taken aim at Apple during its presentation, showing its new tablet on a scale against the MacBook Air to prove it's lighter than its rival.

And of course, power consumption was a major concern for Microsoft to make its point that the Surface Pro 3 can double as a laptop.

The device was placed inside a docking station to show the tablet can technically look like a laptop, and some higher-end apps were shown off, including a 3D-rendering app and Adobe's Photoshop software.

Speaking of Photoshop, the creative photo-editing app has been optimized for the Surface Pro 3, and works with both fingers and the stylus.

The app's icons have been increased in size by 200 percent to make it easier to access them. The feature set, Adobe says, is possible because of the power built into the Surface Pro 3.

The Surface Pro 3's kickstand also received some attention during the event on Tuesday. The device still comes with the standard, 22-degree angle, but can go all the way out to 150 degrees if needed, making it practically flat.

The kickstand can, however, be placed at any angle between those two ends, if that works for you.

The Surface Pro 3 goes officially on sale on tomorrow, starting at $799. Microsoft has not announced prices outside the U.S. yet.

There are actually three versions of the new Surface Pro-- an Intel Core i3, Intel Core i5, and Intel Core i7.

The starting price is for the Intel Core i3. Customers who want an Intel Core i5 will need to dish out $999 to $1,299 depending on storage and RAM. The Intel Core i7 goes up to $1,949 for 512 GB of storage and 8 GB of onboard RAM.

In other mobile news

The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) has set new rules that could allow companies to pay for prioritized internet traffic. The potential decision has been in the works for over a year already, and has a lot of people in the internet community concerned.

FCC chairman Tom Wheeler has put forward a proposal seeking public comment on how best to protect and promote an open internet.

Two of his fellow Democrat FCC commissioners voted in favor of the motion on Thursday, in a 3-2 win that was split along several party lines.

American citizens will now have four months to voice their concerns over what net neutrality campaigners say is an attempt to create fast and slow lanes on the internet.

They're simply against cable giants setting up tiers of connectivity, where website owners pay to stream data faster than some of their rivals.

I simply won't allow the national asset of an open internet to be compromised, Wheeler said.

His proposal will ask Americans "if paid prioritization should be banned outright", and "promises clear rules of the road and aggressive enforcement to prevent unfair treatment of consumers, edge providers and innovators".

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However, the chairman did keep the door open for a multi-speed internet, saying "information about new practices, like any paid prioritization, to the extent that it is otherwise permitted" should be disclosed by ISPs.

So far, the FCC has received about 21,000 filings from the public on the open internet issue to date. But today, some observers did question his promises in a more direct manner.

One protester was marched out of the public hearing by officials at the FCC, after she vocally attacked the plans for paid deals between ISPs and online content providers.

In other mobile news

There are a few rumors from the blogoshpere today implying that the HTC M8 Mini smartphone will lack support for Fitbit, Motion Launch and Panoramic 360-degree photos. The as-yet announced HTC One M8 Mini could lack some of the features that made the larger model so special among users.

To be sure, HTC is apparently planning to launch a mini version of the One M8 that will lack support for the Duo camera that allows on-the-fly photo editing.

The device's Sense 6 software will also lose support for Motion Launch and Panoramic 360-degree photos as well, according to the various rumors we've seen.

But so far, HTC's One M8 device has impressed some reviewers and its users. We gave the device a score of "Outstanding," or 4.5 stars out of five, saying that the device provides "elegant style, raw power, and sophisticated features."

Much of the One M8's value to customers is its dual camera lenses and the features provided by the Sense 6 software.

If HTC drops many of those items for a cheaper, smaller device, it might lose some of its value, however.

We've contacted HTC for comment. We will update this story when we have more information as as soon as it's available.

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Source: The Financial Times.

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