Hot or Not: Tech stories for the week ending 1 Nov 2013

The hottest stories of the week included Android KitKat, new PRISM revelations, 1 gig LTE, and iPad Air speed tests. The ignore list included Silicon Valley secession and Motorola's Project Ara.
Written by Jason Hiner, Editor in Chief on
New Google Glass hardware is on the way, and the program is opening up to more 'Explorers.' | Image: Google

There's way too much noise in tech news. There are plenty of stories you can safely ignore and only a handful that are really worth noting. So, I'm going to save you a lot of time and drop them into two lists: the hot stories that have real impact and the stuff that might have gotten a lot of attention, but isn't worth your time.

HOT (Watch these stories)

  • Google unveils Android 4.4 KitKat and the Nexus 5: Google's 4.4 update is packed with new features that round off the edges of Android and keep the platform war versus iOS7 alive and well. The Nexus 5 has a 445 dpi screen that blows away the competition, has the same hands-free voice controls as the Moto X, retails for $349 unlocked, and is the first Nexus device to enjoy wide carrier support. While Google is touting KitKit as "Android for all" that can even run on low-end Android phones and potentially deal with the thorny problem of lagging Android updates, the company also inexplicably announced that the two-year old Galaxy Nexus phone will not get KitKat.
  • NSA infiltrates links to Yahoo, Google data centers worldwide, Snowden documents say: The whole PRISM story keeps getting worse. As one of my IT architect friends noted this week, "The USA's global surveillance efforts have done more to damage cloud deployments than any amount of FUD."
  • Sprint demonstrates 1 gigabit over-the-air speed at Silicon Valley Lab: Sprint is coming on strong in 4G. What most people don't know is that Sprint has the best set of wireless spectrum assets of any of the U.S. wireless carriers, which gives them an opportunity to leapfrog Verizon and AT&T. However, they had originally used it for WiMAX, which failed in its efforts to open up the wireless industry. Now, they are putting all their weight behind LTE and delivering impressive results. However, access to wired lines for their towers is what derailed WiMAX, and it could happen again since AT&T and Verizon own a lot of those lines.  
  • iPad Air beats the iPad 4 by 80 percent in benchmark tests: When Apple announced the A7 64-bit processor at its iPhone 5s launch in September, tech industry commentators couldn't help but start dreaming about all the desktop-class power in the next iPad. The benchmarks confirm that this thing runs faster than ever and packs almost twice as much computer power. Look for the iPad to replace another wave of machines as a second computer for regular folks and a primary computer for children, the elderly, and technophobes.
  • Google reportedly in talks with Asian suppliers about manufacturing a smartwatch powered by Google Now: The Samsung Galaxy Gear hasn't impressed many people and the Apple iWatch looks like a 2014 product. I've written about the smartwatch I'm waiting for. Google looks like it will join the discussion soon with a wearable device powered by Google Now. With Google Now's powerful predictive abilities in the mix, they've got my attention.
  • Updated Google Glass hardware is coming soon; Glass Explorers program expands: Google is about to release updated hardware for its Google Glass experiment, including the addition of a mono earbud. We don't know a whole lot about what else is in the hardware refresh yet, but it's important enough that Google is offering a trade-in to everyone who bought Glass before October 28. Paired with Google's steady stream of software updates, this makes Glass a lot more interesting than it was at launch. Google is also about to open up Glass to more new "Explorers" by granting each current Glass user the ability to recommend two friends for the program.
  • Facebook's monetization train rolls along with strong Q3: Facebook looks more and more like a real business. The social network reported $2 billion in revenue for last quarter and is now making $4.85 per user for its U.S./Canadian users (while worldwide revenue per user is $1.72). As my colleague Larry Dignan noted, "Facebook could just bring its revenue per user up to U.S. and Canada levels in the rest of the world and thrive for years to come." At the same time, Facebook also finally acknowledged its growing problem with the teen demographic, which is fleeing Facebook for other networks where their parents aren't hanging out. This makes Facebook's Instagram acquisition look even smarter since that's one of the places teens are now congregating.

NOT (Ignore these stories)

  • Motorola's Project Ara aims to create an Android-style ecosystem for hardware: The geek side of me wants to get excited about this. The maker subculture will certainly get amped up about it, and for good reason. However, will it put a dent in the future of Apple and Samsung smartphone sales? Highly unlikely. Those two companies are winning because they integrate everything for you and you don't have to think about the technology. There's room for someone to serve the enthusiast market, but it's a tiny market at this point.
  • Silicon Valley roused by secession call: This is not one of The New York Times' best articles on the Valley. It's about a publicity-seeking speech at Stanford that called the U.S. the "Microsoft of nations" and said Silicon Valley should "opt-out" in piecemeal ways and form its own next-generation community. I won't insult your intelligence by listing all of the logical flaws here.
  • Intel to ditch Web TV project, hand it over to Verizon: The transition of television programming to the web is one of the most difficult and disruptive issues in the digital world of the next decade. Neither of these two companies is likely to succeed where Apple, Google, Microsoft, the entire television industry, and innumerable web startups have failed so far. A small cadre of companies will eventually figure it, but it's not going to be Intel or Verizon.
  • BlackBerry met with Facebook on potential bid: Sure, Mark Zuckerberg famously used to love his BlackBerry. He ditched it in 2010. While Facebook and BlackBerry executives may have met to see if there's a potential buyout opportunity, don't look for Facebook to purchase BlackBerry, which is clearly a declining asset. The most valuable piece of the BlackBerry portfolio is its enterprise business, which Facebook isn't going to want.
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