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Notes from the Samsung Galaxy Fold: day four

Posted by on Apr 20, 2019 in galaxy fold, Hardware, Mobile, Samsung, samsung galaxy fold | 0 comments

Apologies for skipping day three. This kept me extremely busy yesterday. Though the Galaxy Fold remained a constant companion.

Before you ask (or after you ask on Twitter without having read beyond the headline), no it’s hasn’t broken yet. It’s actually been fairly robust, all things considered. But here’s the official line from Samsung on that,

A limited number of early Galaxy Fold samples were provided to media for review. We have received a few reports regarding the main display on the samples provided. We will thoroughly inspect these units in person to determine the cause of the matter.

Separately, a few reviewers reported having removed the top layer of the display causing damage to the screen. The main display on the Galaxy Fold features a top protective layer, which is part of the display structure designed to protect the screen from unintended scratches. Removing the protective layer or adding adhesives to the main display may cause damage. We will ensure this information is clearly delivered to our customers.

I’ll repeat what I said the other day: breakages and lemons have been known to happen with preproduction units. I’ve had it happen with device in a number of occasions in my many years of doing this. That said, between the amount of time it took Samsung to let us reviewers actually engage with the device and the percentage of problems we’ve seen from the limited sample size, the results so far are a bit of a cause for a concern.

The issue with the second bit  is that protective layer looks A LOT like the temporary covers the company’s phones ship with, which is an issue. I get why some folks attempted to peel it off. That’s a problem.

At this point into my life with the phone, I’m still impressed by the feat of engineering went into this technology, but in a lot of ways, it does still feel like a very first generation product. It’s big, it’s expensive and software needs tweaks to create a seamless (so to speak) experience between screens.

That said, there’s enough legacy good stuff that Samsung has built into the phone to make it otherwise a solid experience. If you do end up biting the bullet and buying a Fold, you’ve find many aspects of it to be a solid workhorse and good device, in spite of some of the idiosyncrasies here (assuming, you know, the screen works fine).

It’s a very interesting and very impressive device, and it does feel like a sign post of the future. But it’s also a sometimes awkward reminder that we’re not quite living in the future just yet.

Day One

Day Two


Source: The Tech Crunch

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Notes from the Samsung Galaxy Fold: day two

Posted by on Apr 17, 2019 in galaxy fold, Hardware, Samsung, samsung galaxy fold, Smartphones | 0 comments

I would be remiss if I didn’t mention the technical difficulties multiple reviewers have been experiencing with their units. This sort of thing can happen with pre-production models. I’ve certainly had issues with review units in the past, but these reports are worth mentioning as a note of caution with a product, which we were concerned might not be ready for prime time only a couple of weeks ago.

At the very least, it’s as good a reason as any to wait a couple of weeks before more of these are out in the world before dropping $2,000 to determine how widespread these issues are.

All of that said, I’ve not had any technical issues with my Samsung Galaxy Fold. So far, so good. A day or so in does, however, tend to be the time when the harsh light of day starts to seep in on these things, after that initial novelty of the company’s admittedly impressive feat begins wane.

Using the device in the lead up to our big robotics event tomorrow, a number of TechCrunch co-workers have demanded a few minutes with the the device. The reviews so far have been mixed, with most calling out the thick form factor when closed, as well as the crease. The latter, at least, is really dependent on environmental lighting. In the case of the backstage area at this event, it’s harsh overhead office lighting, which tends to bring the crease out when the phone is facing the ceiling.

On the other hand, I used the phone to watch videos while using the elliptical at the gym this morning. Titled toward me, the crease wasn’t noticeable. It’s also one of the ideal use cases for the product.

Some more notes:

  • The company’s stated “day long” life is pretty on the money. I got just over 24 hours of standard use (subtracting my five hours on a plane).
  • The screen has a built-in protector that looks a lot like the kind of adhesive guard Samsung’s phones ship with. Don’t peel it off. You will damage the phone.
  • I accidentally (I swear) dropped it off a table. It survived unscathed.
  • So many fingerprints.
  • The green finish looks like gold under certain lights. I definitely would have gone in for blue.
  • We used the handset for a Google Hangout. It was kind of perfect. Kept open at an angle, it can prop itself up.
  • The snap to close is still satisfying.

Day One Notes 

 


Source: The Tech Crunch

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The best of MWC 2019

Posted by on Mar 1, 2019 in Hardware, Huawei, Mobile, mwc, mwc 2019, Samsung | 0 comments

After years of promises, 5G finally arrived at MWC 2019 — kind of, sort of. Barcelona served as the launching pad for several 5G handsets, set to arrive later this year. Though your actual 5G mileage may vary.

Foldable displays, another long-promised smartphone tech, also had its moment in the sun. Several companies debuted foldables — some were actual handsets with actual price tags, while others fell firmly within the concept camp. And pretty much all of them were behind glass.

Other notable trends for the event included cameras, AR/VR and security of all sorts. Here are the highlights and lowlights from the world’s biggest mobile show. All in all, we’re here for the weirdness.

5G comes of age

It’s been an MWC talking point for years now, but at this week’s show, the first 5G handsets finally arrived.

Huawei Mate X
LG V50 ThinQ 5G
Samsung Galaxy Fold
Samsung Galaxy S10
Xiaomi Mi Mix 3
ZTE Axon 10 Pro 5G

OnePlus, which promised last year that it would be among the first to hop on the 5G train, didn’t have a handset to announce, but it did demo a prototype and announce an initiative for 5G app devs.

Unfolding the future 

Time to unfold the checkbook. The first foldables are here, carrying an average price of ~$2,000. That’s like two phones for the price of, well, two phones. Whether or not the phones will be worth it, however, is another question entirely.

Huawei Mate X
Samsung Galaxy Fold

TCL showed off a prototype at the show, promising to deliver a more affordable take on the space at some point next year. Oppo, too, is still very much in the prototype phase.

AR/VR/MR

The biggest hit of the world’s biggest phone show may not have been a phone at all. Microsoft used the event to launch the second generation of its HoloLens, a headset firmly focused on business.

Microsoft HoloLens 2
Microsoft Azure Kinect
Vive Focus Plus
Qualcomm XR chips

Security

Huawei had a lot to say about accusations of security threats around its 5G equipment. Ditto for the European Commission’s digital commissioner. Android, meanwhile, will be getting more password-less logins.

Misc

Energizer’s 18,000 mAh phone
Light is expanding from smartphone cameras to self-driving cars
HTC’s blockchain phone can now be purchased with fiat currency
Sprint to launch 5G service in 4 cities in May
Facebook expands its internet infrastructure projects
New microSD format promises insane transfer speeds, better battery life
Nubia’s ‘wearable smartphone’ might be the next step for flexible displays


Source: The Tech Crunch

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Robotics, AR and VR are poised to reshape healthcare, starting in the operating room

Posted by on Feb 21, 2019 in Alphabet, Auris Health, Dell, Health, healthcare, initialized capital, Intuitive Surgical, Johnson & Johnson, MarketsandMarkets, medicine, Microsoft, Robotics, Samsung, TC, Vicarious Surgical, VINCI, virtual reality, Vivid Vision, zSpace | 0 comments

About 20 years ago, a medical device startup called Intuitive Surgical debuted the da Vinci robot and changed surgical practices in operating rooms across the United States.

The da Vinci ushered in the first age of robotic-assisted surgical procedures with a promise of greater accuracy and quicker recovery times for patients undergoing certain laparoscopic surgeries. 

For a time, it was largely alone in the market. It has skyrocketed in value since 2000, when the stock first debuted on public markets. From the $46 million that the company initially raised in its public offering to now, with a market capitalization of nearly $63 billion, Intuitive has been at the forefront of robotic-assisted surgeries, but now a new crop of startups is emerging to challenge the company’s dominance.

Backed by hundreds of millions in venture capital dollars, new businesses are coming to refashion operating rooms again — this time using new visualization and display technologies like virtual and augmented reality, and a new class of operating robots. Their vision is to drive down the cost and improve the quality of surgical procedures through automation and robotic equipment.

“There were 900,000 surgeries done using surgical robotics out of a total of 313 million surgical procedures,” globally, says Dror Berman, a managing director of Innovation Endeavors.

Berman is an investor in Vicarious Surgical, a new robotics company that plans to not only improve the cost and efficiency of surgical procedures, but enable them to be performed remotely so the best surgeons can be found to perform operations no matter where in the world they are.

“Robotics and automation present multiple opportunities to improve current processes, from providing scientists the opportunity to vastly increase experimental throughput, to allowing people with disabilities to regain use of their limbs,” Berman wrote in a blog post announcing his firm’s initial investment in Vicarious.

The $3.4 billion acquisition of Auris Health by Johnson & Johnson shows just how lucrative the market for new surgical robotics can be.

That company, founded by one of the progenitors of the surgical robotics industry, Fred Moll, is the first to offer serious competition to Intuitive Surgical’s technological advantage — no wonder, considering Dr. Moll also founded Intuitive Surgical.

Last year, the company unveiled its Monarch platform, which takes an endoscopic approach to surgical procedures that is less invasive and more accurate to test for — and treat — lung cancer.

“A CT scan shows a mass or a lesion,” Dr. Moll said in an interview at the time. “It doesn’t tell you what it is. Then you have to get a piece of lung, and if it’s a small lesion. It isn’t that easy — it can be quite a traumatic procedure. So you’d like to do it in a very systematic and minimally invasive fashion. Currently it’s difficult with manual techniques and 40 percent of the time, there is no diagnosis. This is has been a problem for many years and [inhibits] the ability of a clinician to diagnose and treat early-stage cancer.”

Monarch uses an endoscopy procedure to insert a flexible robot into hard-to-reach places inside the human body. Doctors trained on the system use video game-style controllers to navigate inside, with help from 3D models.


Source: The Tech Crunch

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What to expect from Mobile World Congress 2019

Posted by on Feb 9, 2019 in 5g, Events, foldables, Hardware, LG, Mobile, mwc, mwc 2019, OnePlus, Samsung, Sony | 0 comments

I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again: 2019 just might be the year that smartphones get fun again. After years of similar form factors and slight upgrades, the mobile industry’s back is against the wall.

For the first time ever, sales are down, owning to economic factors and slower upgrade cycles. Most people who want good phones have had access to them for a while, and smartphone makers are providing fewer compelling reasons to buy new ones.

With their backs against the wall, handset makers are getting creative. We’ve already seen some early fruits from companies late last year and last month at CES. But MWC is really going to be their time to shine. It’s a much larger mobile show, and all parties know that everyone’s bringing the big guns.

Here’s what we expect to see in Barcelona February 24-28.

Huawei: The company looks to have a lot on tap for the event — in part because the North America-based CES is kind of a non-starter. CEO Richard Yu has hinted at a foldable and a 5G handset — which could well be the same phone. More mainstream are the P30 and P30 Pro. The company’s done a good job keeping it under wraps, but rumors about three or four rear-lenses have made the rounds.

LG: As is its move, LG has already announced the G8 ThinQ. We know that the new flagship will feature a front-facing camera with Time of Flight sensor that brings potential tricks like face unlock, along with AR applications. The V50 is also reportedly on tap, potentially bringing 5G along for the ride.

Microsoft: A surprise addition to this year’s show, Microsoft’s already announced an event for February 24, where we expect the company will show off the HoloLens 2. The next-gen version of the headset will arrive as the rest of the hardware and software world is finally ready to embrace augmented reality in earnest.

Motorola: The recent launch of the G7 may have taken the wind out of MWC’s sails, but rumors of a foldable Razr reboot are making the rounds.

OnePlus: We know that a 5G handset and the OnePlus 7 are both in the pipeline — and, perhaps, one and the same? There’s also tell of a closed-door event at the show, but most aren’t expecting any big unveils from the company.

Samsung: Don’t expect a ton out of Samsung this year. The company (inconveniently) is holding its big event a mere days before. Expect the S10 and all its iterations to get a big unveil that week in San Francisco, along with a preview of the company’s upcoming foldable. That doesn’t leave a heck of a lot for MWC, but perhaps we’ll get a peek into the world of wearables or PCs.

Sony: While Xperia phones have long felt like a bit of a loss leader, the electronics giant has always made a big show of launching flagship devices. Those, in turn, have long been a launchpad for some exciting camera tricks. This year, the Xperia XZ4 appears to be on tap for the event. The handset looks to be an interesting one, with a reported 21:9 aspect ratio display and a beefy 4,400 mAh battery.


Source: The Tech Crunch

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Samsung posts fourth-quarter profit drop, warns of weak demand until the second half of 2019

Posted by on Jan 31, 2019 in Asia, Earnings, Mobile, Samsung, Samsung Electronics, South Korea, TC | 0 comments

Samsung Electronics reported its largest quarterly profit decline in two years during its earnings report today. As the Galaxy maker warned in its earnings guidance earlier this month, its results were hurt by slower-than-expected demand for semiconductors, which had bolstered its earnings in previous quarters even when smartphone sales were slow.

Samsung’s forecast was also dour, at least for the first half of the year. It said annual earnings will decline thanks to continuing weak demand for chips, but expects demand for memory products and OLED panels to improve during the second half.

The company’s fourth-quarter operating profit was 10.8 trillion won (about $9.7 billion), a 28.7 percent decrease from the 15.15 trillion won it recorded in the same period one year ago. Revenue was 59.27 trillion won, a 10.2 percent drop year over year.

Broken out by business, Samsung’s semiconductor unit recorded quarterly operating profit of 7.8 trillion won, down from 10.8 trillion won a year ago. Its mobile unit’s operating profit was 1.5 trillion won, compared to 2.4 trillion won a year ago.

Smartphone makers, including Samsung rival Apple, have been hit hard by slowing smartphone sales around the world, especially in China. Upgrade cycles are also becoming longer as customers wait to buy newer models.

This hurt both Samsung’s smartphone and chip sales, as “overall market demand for NAND and DRAM drop[ped] due to macroeconomic uncertainties and adjustments in inventory levels by customers including datacenter companies and smartphone makers,” said the company’s earnings report.

Samsung expects chip sales to be sluggish during the first quarter because of weak seasonality and inventory adjustments by its biggest customers. The company was optimistic about the last two quarters of 2019, when it expects demand for chips and OLED panels to pick up thanks seasonal demand and customers finishing their inventory adjustments.


Source: The Tech Crunch

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Your smartphone may soon pack 1TB in storage thanks to Samsung’s new memory chip

Posted by on Jan 30, 2019 in Asia, computing, consumer electronics, Gadgets, phablets, Samsung, samsung galaxy, samsung galaxy note 9, smartphone, Smartphones, Technology | 0 comments

Sick of filling the limited space on your phone with apps, photos and videos? Sometime in the near future, your smartphone could ship with more than one-terabyte (1TB) of internal storage and run 10 times faster than a standard memory card.

Samsung is best known for making smartphones but the company’s memory division — one of its most profitable units — just announced that it has begun mass-producing a 1TB flash storage chip for phones. There’s no word on when they’ll be inside smartphones but Samsung said it plans to increase production during the first half of this year.

“Smartphone enthusiasts will soon be able to enjoy storage capacity comparable to a premium notebook PC, without having to pair their phones with additional memory cards,” Samsung said.

That 1TB capacity is double the previous highest that the Korean firm has produced. Its newest chip gave the Galaxy Note 9 a 512GB model which passes the terabyte milestone when a 512GB SD card is added. This new breakthrough promises to offer that without the help of a card, but the company also boasted of improved performance.

Samsung said its new tech reaches speeds of up to 1,000 megabytes per second (MB/s) — that would transfer a 5GB-sized full HD video in just five seconds to transfer, as opposed to nearly one minute with conventional microSD cards. Increased memory will also enable better quality high-resolution video shooting thanks to faster random read speed, it said.

Sounds good, but might this ship before the end of the year? The Samsung rumor mill is already speculating that the upcoming Galaxy Note 10 could include a 1TB model, but at this stage there is no concrete evidence. Keep an eye out for future leaks for more hints.


Source: The Tech Crunch

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What (we think) we know about the Samsung Galaxy S10

Posted by on Jan 26, 2019 in Hardware, Mobile, Samsung | 0 comments

The Galaxy S10 will be revealed at an event in San Francisco on February 20. This much we know for sure. Samsung sent out invites for the event sporting a giant number a few weeks back. It’s clear the company’s looking to get out ahead of what should be a fairly action-packed Mobile World Congress this year. 

We know, too, that the event will be occasion for the company to talk up its forthcoming foldable. Samsung told up as much during its last developer conference — and for good measure, the invite also sported a large crease down the middle. The S10, however, will almost certainly be the real star of the show.

And in typical Samsung fashion, the new flagship has been leaking out like crazy since late last year. By now, it seems, we’ve seen handset from every conceivable angle. So here’s what we know — or, what we think we know, at least.

For starters, Samsung is skipping the notch altogether, jumping straight from skinny top bezel to pinhole cutout — what the company called its “Infinity O” display. It’s more or less the same as the one found on the recently revealed Galaxy A9 Pro. The S10+, meanwhile, will feature an oblong version of hole punch, seemingly in order to include a second front-facing camera.

Interestingly, there are believed to be three S10 models set to be announced on the 20th. You’ve got your standard S10 (6.1-inch), the S10 Plus (6.4-inch) and a budget version (5.8-inch), which will be something akin to Samsung’s take on the iPhone XR. Among other things, the product may be devoid of the curved screens that have become a mainstay for the Galaxy line.

With Samsung’s Note woes well in the rearview mirror, the company is reportedly amping up to once again boost the battery life, with the S10 sporting a 3,100mAh and the Plus carrying a whopping 4,100mAh. Huge if true.

Less surprising is the inclusion of the Snapdragon 855 — that’s going to power practically every non-iPhone flagship this year. Ditto for Android Pie. 5G is much less certain, however. While it’s true that Samsung has already announced that not one but two handset will arrive from the company sporting the next-gen cellular tech, we can’t say for sure whether the S10 will be among them.

That said, rumors about a Galaxy S10 X sporting the tech aren’t out of the real of possibility. That seems more likely than Samsung shoehorning it into the base model. After all, 5G won’t be hitting a saturation point this year. That could bring the number of S10 models up to four. 

Similarly, rumors around the headphone jack are all over the place. The latest images, however, seem to confirm that Samsung’s staying put on that one, steadfastly remaining one of the last flagships to sport the once ubiquitous port.


Source: The Tech Crunch

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The state of the foldable

Posted by on Jan 26, 2019 in foldables, Hardware, Mobile, Motorola, Royole, Samsung, Xiaomi | 0 comments

You’d be forgiven for being cynical. I’ve been seeing foldable display concepts for as long as I’ve been attending tech trade shows (which, quite frankly, is longer than I care to mention). Big names like Samsung and LG have been pumping countless R&D dollars into the technology in hopes of being first to next step in the evolution of the smart phone form factor.

The concept is nothing new, of course. The flip phone pre-dates the ubiquitous smartphone slab by decades. And a number of companies have tried to cheat the system. 2017’s Axon M was one of the more memorable attempts in recent memory — though that device amounted to little more than two screens jammed together on a hinge.

It bold and brash, but more than anything it was completely silly with an execution that left a lot to be desired. In my review, I called it “a fascinating mess.” But hey, ZTE deserves at least some credit for a run of products that attempted — with varying degrees of success — to buck the trend of samey smartphones.

There are plenty of reasons to be pessimistic about the state of technology in 2019, but I humbly offer you a beacon of light. This is the year smartphones become fun again. With their back to the corner, facing flagging sales, smartphone makers are taking leaps. Hell, it’s still January, and we’ve already caught a glimpse of what’s to compete.

At the front of the charger are foldables. That seems to be the term we’ve settled on for now — and it suits the category just fine. What convertibles were to the laptop category, foldables are to phones. True foldables require the display itself to do the folding, so devices can ostensibly transform from a one-handed smartphone to a larger tablet.

The Axon M didn’t fit the description for a number of reason, not the least of which was the gap between the two displays, which, quite frankly, made for a pretty crappy movie viewing experience, among others.

The first real foldable we’ve seen was a surprise contender. If the name “Royole” meant anything to you, prior to the Flex Pai, it was probably followed by the phrase “with cheese.” From the moment we first saw grainy footage of the handset, it was clear that being first and being best are rarely one and the same. “Folding screens are here,” I wrote at the time, “and they look crappy.”

I got some time with an updated version of the handset about a month later in China, and reappraised my initial impressions a bit. Even still, the Flex Pai didn’t and doesn’t strike me as much more than a little known company’s push bid to make a name for itself simply by being first.

Romain spent a bit more time with the device at CES, and appears to have come to similar conclusions. Royole does get credit for actually making the device a reality — even if it’s one that’s more developer focused than consumer. That does, of course, speak to a broader issue around usability.

It was a cause Google was happy to take up in November, when the company announced Android support for foldable displays. Like the notch before it, Google was attempting to get out ahead of the looming trend.

Here’s how Android VP Dave Burke described the category at the time, “You can think of the device as both a phone and a tablet, Broadly, there are two variants — two-screen devices and one-screen devices. When folded, it looks like a phone, fitting in your pocket or purse. The defining feature for this form factor is something we call screen continuity.”

It’s going to be fascinating to see if the industry coalesces around a single form factor here. The Flex Pai is one of the simpler ones — essentially operating like a sheet of paper that (somewhat awkwardly) folds in half so you can slip it in your pocket.

The same day that Google announced Android support, Samsung (briefly) showed off its own version of the technology. In the whooping 45 seconds the company devoted to it during a its two-hour keynote, we caught a glimpse of what looks to be an early prototype. Here, the device sports a display on the outside and unfolds to reveal a larger display within.

The “Infinity Flex Display” appeared at first glance to be more sophisticated than Royole’s — but “glance” is really the operative word here. It was a big, blocky prototype that we’ll be hearing more about at Unpacked next month.

Earlier this week, meanwhile, Xiaomi debuted what’s since come to be regarded as the most advanced of the bunch, but like Samsung, we only got a glimpse. And here it was in a much more controlled environment of a short, pre-recorded clip and extremely low resolution. That said, “the world’s first ever double folding phone” looks like a thing out of a sci-fi film.

The company, telling, tossed around the word “prototype” quite liberally there.

And then there’s Huawei. Mobile Chief Richard Yu highlight plans to announce a 5G folding phone at Mobile World Congress next month. As ever, details are scarce. Same goes for Motorola’s Razer, a $1,500 folding throwback, which is firmly in the rumor stages.

If that price point gives you pause, well, get used to it. The Flex Pai is already available at $1,300, and most other handsets are appear on track to hit roughly the same price point, making the latest iPhone and Samsung Galaxy devices look like a downright bargain.


Source: The Tech Crunch

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Samsung releases a Chromebook-like Windows 10 Home laptop

Posted by on Jan 7, 2019 in CES, CES 2019, Gadgets, Samsung | 0 comments

Samsung is announcing two new laptops at CES. The company is launching a pro-level laptop called the Notebook 9 Pro and a laptop for student called the Notebook Flash.

The Notebook Flash is an entry-level laptop with a textured design. It looks like fabric but it’s made out of plastic. The screen doesn’t look great to be honest — it has a narrow viewing angle.

And specs aren’t that great. 64GB of storage, 4GB of RAM and entry-level Intel CPUs. The good news is that it has a bunch of ports — two USB-C ports, two big USB ports, an HDMI port, etc.

But it’s a laptop for schools and students who just want something basic. The Intel Celeron N4000 version is going to ship for $350 on January 15.

It’s slightly more expensive than Windows 10 S laptops, but you get a full version of Windows for that price.

The 13-inch Notebook 9 Pro features a slimmer bezel and an updated backlit keyboard. There’s a fingerprint reader on the side of the device. You can convert it into a tablet by pushing the screen all the way. And the laptop comes with an Active Pen.

The default configuration comes with 256GB of flash storage, an integrated Intel GPU and 8GB of RAM. There are two Thunderbolt 3 ports, one USB-C port and a microSD slot.

Samsung is swapping the rounded edges for a sharper metal design. It looks more like a MacBook Pro now, but with a touch screen. Pricing hasn’t been disclosed yet.


Source: The Tech Crunch

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