Apple summoned for Price questioning

Broadening a row between the world’s most valuable company and Australian lawmakers over corporate taxes paid on Apple’s operations, Apple executives were formally summonsed on Monday to front a parliamentary committee in Canberra on March 22.

“In what’s probably the first time anywhere in the world, these IT firms are now being summoned by the Australian parliament to explain why they price their products so much higher in Australia compared to the United States,” said ruling Labor government MP Ed Husic, who helped set up the committee.

High local prices and soaring cost-of-living bills for basic services are hurting the popularity of the minority Labor government ahead of a September 14 election it is widely tipped to lose, giving political momentum to the inquiry.

All three companies have so far declined to appear before the special committee set up in May last year to investigate possible price gouging on Australian hardware and software buyers, despite the Australian dollar hovering near record highs above the U.S. currency around A$1.03.

A 16GB WiFi iPad produced by Apple with Retina display sells in Australia for A$539, $40 above the price in the U.S., despite the stronger local currency. Microsoft’s latest versions of office 365 home premium cost A$119 in Australia versus $99.99 in the United States.

Bioware: Calling It Mass Effect 4 Does The Next Game A Disservice

Calling the next instalment in Bioware’s Science Fiction saga Mass Effect 4 isn’t really fair or representative of the project.

“To call the next game Mass Effect 4 or ME4 is doing it a disservice and seems to cause a lot of confusion here. We have already said that the Commander Shepard trilogy is over and that the next game will not feature him/her. That is the only detail you have on the game. I see people saying ‘well, they’ll have to pick a canon ending’. No, because the game does not have to come after. Or before. Or off to the side. Or with characters you know. Or yaddayaddayadda. Wherever, whenever, whoever, etc will all be revealed years down the road when we actually start talking about it.

“I do not call the game ME4 when I talk about it ever, because [sic] that makes people think of it more as ‘what happens after Mass Effect 3’ rather than ‘what game happens next set in the Mass Effect Universe’, which is far more accurate at this point. Obviously fans are going to speculate content, character and story until we actually reveal details in the years or months to come as you have almost no actual details, just don’t get bogged down in ‘well how are they going to continue ME3…’.

BioWare Montreal chief Yanick Roy has since expanded on what Priestly had to say; he also indicated that the game will take place after Shepard’s story.

“Thinking of the next Mass Effect game as Mass Effect 4 would imply a certain linearity, a straight evolution of the gameplay and story of the first three games.

“That doesn’t mean that events of the first three games and the choices you made won’t get recognised, but they likely won’t be what this new story will focus on. If you had three games centred around a group of key soldiers in the US army during World War I and then decided to make a game about another group of people during the Second World War, the games could have many points in common and feel true to one another.”

“You likely would have to recognise how the events of the first war influenced the ones of the second, but you would not necessarily think of it as a sequel. Again, the analogy is not great, but what I’m trying to say is that the ME universe is so rich that we are not limited to a single track when coming up with a new story.”

The next instalment in the franchise is being developed at BioWare Edmonton, which previously worked on both side-quests for Mass Effect 2 and 3, as well as 3’s multiplayer component.

Source: IGN

BlackBerry 10 OS review

For years now, the BlackBerry OS has occupied something of a special state, almost feeling as if it were thrown down into a pit and locked into a bar of carbonite, preserved in stasis for future generations to see. Want to show your kids what using a smartphone was like in 2006? You just needed to find a Bold on display at the local electronics store and let your little ones gaze wide-eyed at a sea of menus and tiny buttons.

BB7, then, was a disappointment for many, feeling like a bare-minimum update to those versions that came before rather than the complete QNX-based retooling we’d all been waiting for. The PlayBook showed us what was possible with a clean-sheet approach to a BlackBerry OS, and we wanted that on a phone. Now, two years after the release of that tablet, here we have it. It’s BlackBerry 10. It’s a wholly new experience, very different even than the PlayBook, and in general it’s quite good. But is it good enough to thrive in a world dominated by iOS and Android

The input-free BlackBerry Z10 drives home the need to use gestures to interact with this new OS, because there’s a complete lack of buttons on the face — only the volume controls and a power / lock toggle on top remain. Even the touch-heavy9850 Torch made room for a suite of discrete inputs, but not here. So, it’ll be gestures, then, which means there’s a bit of a learning curve. Thankfully, it’s a slight one.

So, it’ll be gestures, then, which means there’s a bit of a learning curve. Thankfully, it’s a slight one.

The most important gesture is swiping up from the bottom bezel, which always brings you back to a tiled view of all the running apps. This will be the gesture most familiar to PlayBook users, and is one of the few that survived. (Swiping from the left or right bezels to switch apps, for example, isn’t possible here.) Up to eight apps can be kept running in the background on this screen and bringing one back to life just requires a tap. Or, to properly kill a running app, hit the X in the lower right, an action that feels a bit ornery compared to the fun of flinging an app that you no longer needed off the top of the PlayBook’s display.

From here you can swipe your way left or right. To the right lies a grid of icons, on the Z10 arranged in a 4 x 4 matrix of rectangular tiles, each holding an app icon and a name. Repositioning is performed by tapping and dragging, while dropping one on another creates a folder. Folders are represented by a smaller grid of icons within a single app icon space, with no other identifying characteristic, which makes them a bit hard to pick out amidst the sea of apps.

App icon and folder pages extend off to the right as more apps are installed and there’s no attempt at categorizing them, again unlike the PlayBook, which had pages for “Favorites” and “Media” apps. Widgets and other desktop-like controls are not supported here. Just icons. But, a bit of room was carved out to create a static area holding three special controls: a phone, a search glass and a camera.

Tap the phone and the dialer interface shows up. This is split into three sections, with the leftmost giving you a look at your previous incoming and outgoing calls. In the middle is a long list of contacts (sucked in from BBM, Facebook, Twitter and Google Contacts, among others) that is searchable and, in the right tab is a simple dial pad in case you’re one of the lucky few who can actually remember a phone number.

Source: Engagdet

NYT: Apple experimenting with wrist-worn iOS devices using curved glass

Rumors of Apple building a watch-like device have existed since time immemorial — they’ve built up the same near-mythical status that the iPhone did pre-2007, or a TV set does today. The New York Times, however, claims that the watch concept exists as more than just some fan art. Reportedly, Apple has been “experimenting” with wrist-wearable devices that would run iOS and use curved glass. Other details are left to feverish speculation, although the OS choice suggests it would be more than just a glorified iPod nano watch. Before we get too excited, we’d do well to remember that any testing in a design lab doesn’t equate to production plans: the company might well scrap its work before it ever becomes public, if it’s indeed real to start with. Still, there have been enough advances in flexible displays and miniaturization that the notion of connected, wearable Apple gear is no longer as far-fetched as it once seemed.

Source: New York Times

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