Amazon CEO Bezos holds up the new Kindle Touch at news conference in New York

Amazon has launched a head-on challenge to the dominance of Apple’s iPad by unveiling a low-price tablet computer, in a move set to intensify competition over the way consumers enjoy books, music and video.

Jeff Bezos, Amazon’s founder and chief executive, launched a new series of Kindle products in New York on Wednesday, at a media gathering. He began his presentation with the launch of a new eReader -  the black-and-white Kindle Touch priced at $99, as well as a Kindle without a touch interface priced at $79. But the much-awaited direct competitor to the iPad was the $199 Kindle Fire.

 

steven sinofsky

Here is some unexpected news from the frontline of the tablet computing revolution: the screens full of “apps” that have achieved an almost iconic status thanks to the success of the iPad, may not be the be-all and end-all of touchscreen computing.

The unlikely prompt for this thought is none other than Microsoft. The PC software leviathan has hardly been known for its pioneering ways with computer interfaces, let alone for design flair. Nevertheless, it looks set to add an interesting new twist to tablets.

 

The embarrassment of foreign riches among US tech companies is starting to become conspicuous.

This is not just a reflection of the huge amounts of cash involved. (Apple has nearly $50bn stuffed under mattresses in countries beyond its home base. Like other US companies, it prefers to keep its foreign earnings offshore rather than bring them home and pay tax.) 

 

I have taught my mom to use e-mail three times. Starting when she was in her late 60s, we went over the basics of Hotmail. We exchanged a few messages – hers were usually all in capital letters – but the correspondence died off when she accidentally clicked on her Trash folder and never figured out how to navigate back.

We tried the tutorial again when I visited the following Thanksgiving, then a couple of summers later, until my mom quietly disconnected her internet service altogether. “If someone needs to reach me, they can call me,” she said.

 

In the decades since Dick Tracy got his own wristwatch radio in a cartoon strip, many technology companies have tried and failed to produce a successful wristwatch gadget in real life.

Wimm Labs, a Silicon Valley startup backed by Taiwanese contract manufacturer Foxconn, is the latest to come up with a wearable device, insisting its own timepiece tells us the wristwatch gizmo’s time has come.

 

The more gadgets we accumulate the harder it becomes to remember where we put them and, more often, what we’ve put on them. I remember I took photos of a dogs’ pool party (yes, really) at the weekend on my iPod Touch but the pictures of the last barbecue could be on my Android smartphone or the digital camera – and I may have copied them to my PC or my laptop, or maybe not at all. It is the same story with video, while the songs I buy on Napster and Amazon could be on any number of devices.

Keeping these devices in sync is driving us crazy – not my words, but those of Steve Jobs when he unveiled Apple’s iCloud service last week. 

Microsoft was in advanced discussions on Monday night about purchasing Skype, the internet telephone company, in what would be one of the US software company’s largest deals so far as it seeks to boost its online operations. 

Worldwide shipments of personal computers declined in the first quarter of 2011, contrary to expectations of modest growth, due to competition from tablets, disruptions in Japan, and increased fuel and commodity prices. 

Cameron and Tyler Winklevoss, the identical twins who claimed Mark Zuckerberg stole their idea for building the social network that became Facebook, lost their final battle with the company in US courts on Monday, exhausting their legal options for claiming any further stake in the company.

The Winklevosses, whose initial claims against Facebook were popularised in the film, The Social Network, asked the US Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit in January to dissolve the handwritten settlement agreement they signed with Facebook, including cash and stock valued at $65m.