Lantronix Prints From Android and Chrome at CES

Lantronix LogoThere are times when only hard copy will do but anyone who has tried to print from a tablet will know that it’s not always easy. The main ecosystems from Apple and Google have their own printer strategies with AirPrint and Cloud Print respectively but support is spotty at best. Several printer manufacturers have gone so far as to create their own printer app which really is a pretty poor state of affairs.

Into this gap steps Lantronix with their xPrintServer Cloud Print Edition, the first Google-certified Cloud Print server which lets Android and ChromeOS devices print wirelessly to network and USB printers. Sweet.

xPrintServer

The unit is about the size of a smartphone and requires no additional software downloads or printer drivers. It’s simply a case of connecting the device to the network and it automatically finds the printers on the network, making them available to users. The xPrintServer Cloud Print Edition supports any device running Google’s Chrome browser, whether it’s a smartphone, tablet, PC or laptop. Apparently there are over 310 million active users of Chrome, so that’s quite a few people who might want to print. Business users of Google Apps are supported too. Details of the printers supported are available from Lantronix’s website.

This new xPrintServer joins the existing Home and Office Editions which provide print services for iOS devices such as the iPhone and iPad.

The Cloud Print Edition sells for an MSRP of US$149.95 and will ship at the end of February 2014. Pre-orders are being taken now and potential customers can sign up at lantronix.com for more information and availability. Of course, if you are at CES, you can pop round to their stand for a quick demo.

Philips Hue Chrome App

Hue Personal Wireless LightingWhile researching the Philips Hue Android apps, I discovered that currently there is a single Hue app for Chrome. It’s called Hueful and while it’s fairly basic, it deserves a mention as (a) it’s the only app on Chrome but (b) it shows that Chrome can support this kind of hardware-oriented app. Previously I would have discounted Chrome from being an option but Hueful works fine on my Chromebook.

Hueful isn’t a very advanced Hue app, being limited to setting colours of selected lamps and colour cycling. Sometimes lamps need to be told twice to take on a setting but they usually get there in the end.

Hueful

 

Hueful is free from the Chrome store.

Microsoft Bluetooth Notebook Mouse 5000 Review

Wireless mice are commonplace these days but many only work with their own brand wireless transceiver, which restricts their use to devices equipped with USB ports. Less common are Bluetooth-based mice which have the potential to work with any Bluetooth-equipped unit, including Android and iOS tablets, potentially making them much more useful. On review here is one such mouse, the Microsoft Bluetooth Notebook Mouse 5000. Snappy name, but let’s take a look.

The 5000 is fairly typical of notebook mice being smaller than a typical desktop mouse at only 9 cm long and about 5.5 cm wide. People with large hands may find the mouse is too small but for occasional use with a tablet or notebook, it’s fine. I certainly wouldn’t want it as my main mouse as I can’t really rest my hand on it, but this is all subjective and some people may find it perfect.

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Looks-wise, it’s not a Microsoft Arc or a Logitech Ultrathin, but it’s not entirely unattractive. This is the version with silvery-white buttons and dark gray body; there is a version with these colours reversed too. The silver matched my Samsung Chromebook rather nicely but the colour does vary with the light.

Two Duracell AA batteries power the 5000, which are supplied in the packaging and Duracell’s make a welcome change from the generic AAs that usually accompany remote controls and other battery-powered accessories. There’s an on/off switch on the bottom to conserve power when not in use. I’ve been using the mouse for about a week and I’ve yet to replace the batteries.

To pair the mouse, there’s a second button on the underside that needs to be pressed for a few seconds to put the mouse into a pairing mode. After that, the mouse should appear in the device list of whatever computer is to connect to the mouse. I successfully paired with an Android tablet, a Windows 8 tablet and a Chromebook. I imagine that it will work with iPads and other iOS devices but I didn’t have one at hand to test.

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In use, the 5000 works pretty much like any mouse. It’s an optical mouse with a laser motion tracker so resistance will depend entirely on the surface in use. There are four buttons: left, right, middle and “back”, which is next to the main left button and can pressed by your thumb to take your web browser back a page – you can see it in the top picture. Great if you are right-handed, but a waste of time if you are left-handed. The scroll wheel has a bit of stiffness to it but I like that as it prevents accidental scrolling.

Overall, the Microsoft Bluetooth Notebook Mouse 5000 is a good mouse but not a great mouse. It’s nothing special but there’s nothing wrong with it either (except for the back button only being useful to right-handed users) . The 5000 is available from all good retailers for around £25.

Disclaimer: this was a personal purchase.

First Look: HP Chromebook 11

Earlier this week, HP announced its latest addition to the laptop family, but this time, instead of Windows 8 or 8.1, the little  notebook is running Chrome OS.

The HP Chromebook 11 sports a Samsung Exynos 5 dual-core ARM chip, 2 GB of RAM and a 16 GB SSD. It also has a webcam, full-size keyboard, 2 USB ports, digital speakers, an 11.6-inch 1366 x 768 display, Micro-SIM slot and charges via Micro USB. The whole thing weighs in at just 2.3 pounds.

The little Chromebook retails for $279 and can be purchased now from the Google Play store. For a first look in images, scroll down to view all of the pictures.

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New Chromebooks

Chrome logoYesterday on the Chrome blog, Google announced that new Chromebooks from Acer, Asus, HP and Toshiba were on their way. Arriving in the next few months the new Chromebooks are based on Intel’s Haswell chips rather than the current ARM processors and the chip’s low power consumption will double the battery life.

Chromebook 14These new Chromebooks are (roughly) the third iteration of the laptops and it’s great to see new entrants, Asus and Toshiba, joining the party. HP’s new Chromebook 14 will be out before the holiday season, cost $300 and come in a range of colours. Although Acer will be bringing out a new model as well, there’s no news on whether Samsung will be refreshing its line-up. The eye-wateringly expensive Pixel seems to remain the only touch-screen model in the range but that could change as details emerge on the new models.

Google quotes that in the sub-$300 computer segment, Chromebooks have taken a little less than a quarter of the market and around 5,000 US schools have also provided Chromebooks to students. For a product that’s just 2 years old, it’s pretty impressive.

I’m looking forward to the new models as I’m currently using a Samsung Chromebook to write this article and I’m bought into a web and cloud-centric view, especially for people who actually want to get stuff done wherever they are. Neat, low-cost, instant-on devices with a keyboard make Chromebooks very handy to have around. More apps are appearing, particularly business ones and if you haven’t considered a Chromebook in the past, you might want to consider one.

Samsung UK Chromebook Offer

Samsung LogoJust a quickie….Samsung UK have an offer on at the moment that if you buy one of their Chromebooks during August, you can claim a free smartphone. Don’t get too excited as the phone is only a Galaxy Mini but it’s better than nothing and you can always flog it on ebay. There are further goodies if you buy a 3G Chromebook.

Pay attention to the small print as you have to wait 14 days from the date of purchase before you can apply for the phone.

Are netbooks truly dead in 2013?

Many websites have been parroting a recent report from Digitimes which is ready to call a “time of death” for netbooks, but are they really going the way of the dinosaur? Yes, it is true that Asus is killing its Eee PC line and Acer may follow suit with its line, but it certainly does not ring a death knell for an entire industry.

In fact, I would argue that the platform is alive and well, but only transforming. After all, we just got brand new Chromebooks from both Samsung and Acer, which could very easily be classified as the next generation in this product line.

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Let’s face it — the world is still hungry for affordable computers and the attempt to force us to move to overpriced “ultrabooks” is certainly not cutting it with the average consumer.

In short, I find this entire report to be overblown rubbish. It looks at one thing and ignores several others in order to draw a questionable conclusion for sensationalism. Then again, I expect no less from many sites — page views are money and I get that. But, look at the big picture. The market is constantly evolving. The new netbook may well be the Chromebook, which Acer themselves produce. The form factor and price fit the bill. Only the name has changed.

Acer Announces $199 Chromebook, Can You Still Resist?

Today Google and hardware maker Acer announced the latest Chromebook laptop, following closely on the heels of the recent Samsung release.  Once again, Acer has undercut Samsung on the price by offering a $199 notebook and beating Samsung by $50.

The Acer notebook has been officially named the C7 and packs some impressive specs given the price.  It has an 11.6 inch display, Intel Core processor, boots up in 18 seconds, a 320GB hard drive, 1080p video and 100GB of free storage on Google Drive.  The only knock here may be a rather poultry 3.5 hours of battery life.  On the other hand, it’s a pretty thin device that resemble today’s popular Ultrabooks.

While Chromebooks only run the Google Chrome operating system and aren’t compatible with traditional software like Microsoft Office, they make up for this in speed and simplicity.  The cloud storage is handy and services like Google Docs and web apps make up for this as well.  Plus, if you just can’t live without Office then you can still access it using Office Web Apps or Office 365.

So, will these recent offerings from Samsung and now the even cheaper one from Acer be enough to make you switch?  A full notebook computer for the price of a Nexus 7 or Kindle Fire HD is certainly going to be tempting.  Plus, Google has been fast at work updating and improving the Chrome OS and things will only get better from here.

Samsung Reveals New Chromebook and Chromebox

The Google Chrome operating system has been available for almost a year with lots of updates to the OS, but very little traction in the market.  Google made it prominent by giving away thousands of CR-48 laptops, but when the final version was released there were only two hardware makers on board – Samsung and Acer.  Sadly that hasn’t changed since the release, and it didn’t change at CES , but there was some Chrome OS news there.

Samsung announced two new additions to the Chrome world – one is a new notebook, but the other is the first Chrome desktop computer, or “Chromebox”.  The Series 5 notebook has been updated to include 2 GB of RAM (which it already had – not sure if the RAM type changed), a 16 GB SSD (it previously had a 16 GB Serial ATA), and a slightly faster CPU.  Meanwhile, the Chromebox is considered a Series 3 product, and it comes with six USB ports, a DVI port, 2 Display Link ports, an ethernet jack, and is currently running Chrome 17.0.963.15.  It’s also rumored to have a dual-core processor under the hood, along with 2 GB of RAM, and 16 GB SSD.  The video below gives a good idea of what both new products look like.

Video Source: BetaNews

Price of Chromebook Drops. Will You Buy it Now?

Chromebook Display at Google Places Event

Chromebook Display at Google Places Event

Google announced they are dropping the price of the Chromebook by 30%. Some Chromebooks will be as low as $299. But questions still arise if a Chromebook is in your holiday wish list, when you can get a Kindle Fire, nook Color for less. Even the iPad could be in more stockings than the ultra-portable laptop.

Chromebook came out back in June as Google’s answer to a PC that didn’t have a complicated OS to it. You would load the Chromebook up to a Chrome browser; inside, all your applications would be in the cloud and the data you create would also mostly reside in a cloud drive. However, if you were in a 3G deadspot or didn’t have Wifi, then your work would be rather limited.

Competing with a Tablet

Chromebook’s price drop is pretty much an attempt to counter the prices of the Kindle Fire and nook color tablets, which debuted to the general public last week at $199 and $249 respectively. The tablet – which you could connect a bluetooth keyboard and mouse – could technically become a more functional notebook than a Chromebook itself. And with prices at $100 lower than the device,  will a Samsung or Acer Chromebook even be in your holiday purchase radar?

What is Chromebook’s Market?

Google Chair at SF Airport

Google Chair at SF Airport

Chromebook has to figure out where their niche is going to be. Maybe as a laptop for the kids, or a machine you can keep in the kitchen to call up recipes or as a kiosk in a public place? Back in September, I saw the Chromebook lounge in the San Francisco Airport. Those kiosks would be great for people that have hours to wait but don’t have a computer to check their Facebook profiles or email on.

Remember when the Netbook was a popular item two years ago? What happened to that? The answer is the netbook disappeared fast. You can still get a netbook, but just like the Chromebook, why should you spend $300 or more for a device that is the same speed and power as a Kindle Fire or nook Color?

So now we can start to see the impact of these two new tablets are bringing to the holiday shopping season. Chromebook has to compete with something more compact and useable. Google has not released any data regarding Chromebooks sold, but a DigiTimes report (premium content site) says it all:

“In June 2011, Acer and Samsung launched their Chromebooks ahead of other PC brand vendors, but by the end of July, Acer had reportedly only sold 5,000 units and Samsung was said to have had even lower sales than Acer, according to sources from the PC industry.”

What does that mean to Chromebook? Simply: It’s time to drop prices and hope the Chromebook will sell well in Q4.