Spring has come, and like new buds springing forth from the loamy earth, so too are new gadgets constantly being released into the real world. Today’s first helping of new gear comes from Toshiba, who has just fleshed out their Excite line of Android tablets with three new entrants: the Excite 7.7, Excite 10, and the plus-sized Excite 13.
These three new Ice Cream Sandwich-powered tabs share most of the same fundamentals — they all sport NVIDIA’s quad-core Tegra 3 processor for example, as well as 1GB of RAM, a pair of rear and front-facing camera (5 and 2MP, if you’re interested). Also appearing throughout the line are the usual complement of WiFi and Bluetooth radios, which are nestled within tidy aluminum frames.
As their names imply though, each tab sports a distinctly-sized (and Gorilla Glass swathed) display that Toshiba presumably hopes will help them squeeze into a handful of niches. Take the Excite 7.7 for instance — Toshiba’s super-portable offering is the thinnest of the lot with a 0.3-inch waistline and is also the only to feature a AMOLED display.
That portability and power will definitely cost customers a pretty penny though, as the 16GB model will hit shelves on June 10 with a hefty $499 price tag. Customers looking to step up their memory game can expect to fork over a total of $579 should they opt for the 32GB variant. Heads up folks, the Excite 7.7 also has a microSD card slot, so you can probably score 32GB of storage for a little bit less.
The Excite 13 sits on the other end of the size spectrum, and Toshiba pegs the big guy as a real winner when it comes to media playback thanks to that sizable 13.3-inch 1600 x 900 display and its array of four speakers. Also on board are a Micro HDMI port for some quick TV connections and a full-sized SD card slot for additional storage. It’s also worth noting that while it may seem like the homebody of the group, it isn’t terribly tough to lug around at 2.2 pounds.
Should Toshiba’s claims pan out, the Excite 13 shouldn’t leave too many users in the lurch with a dead battery — they report that they’ve been able to squeeze an awfully appropriate 13 hours of use out of the thing. Expect the 32GB model to go for $649 and the 64GB model to retail for $749.99 when they launch alongside the Excite 7.7 on June 10.
Meanwhile, the Excite 10 (not to be confused with the very similarly named Excite 10 LE) is nestled right in the middle and purely in terms of hardware, it’s more robust than the tab that preceded it. In order to make that happen though, Toshiba had to compromise a bit on the size. While the original Excite 10 LE featured a remarkably thin 0.3-inch waistline, the new Excite 10 sports an ever-so-slightly chubbier build at 0.35 inches thick (the decision to keep the Micro HDMI port and go for a full-size SD card slot probably didn’t help).
If you’re the sort that can’t bear to wait for shiny new gear, than the Excite 10 may be the tab to keep your eye on — it’s going to be released ahead of its brethren on May 6, with prices ranging from $449 for the 16GB model, $549 for the 32GB, and $649 for the 64GB.
Shawn Carolan of Menlo Ventures, an investor in Siri Inc., prior to Apple acquiring the company, recently sat down on Bloomberg to discuss the technology. Apart from talking about the initial demo that attracted him to the investment and meeting Siri Co-Founder Norman Winarsky, Bloomberg host Cory Johnson pressed him on exactly how Siri is able to take voice-recognition data and determine intent.
Around the 3:20 mark, Carolan discussed Siri’s unique approach of taking all words as “one big block” and mapping “those strings of words across” a group of 10 domains of expertise. This approach sounds familiar to at least one technology journalist who claimed the method is similar to patents owned by search portal Excite in 1994. Robert Cringely explained:
Here’s how the ArchiText (later Excite) search engine worked. Every query was stripped to its significant words — subjects, objects, verbs and adjectives — then each query became a vector in a multidimensional space with each unique word being a dimension. “How do space rockets stay in orbit when they are flying through space?” would become a vector string one unit long for each of those words but two units long for the word “space.” This bit of semantic DNA was then mapped against an index of millions of web pages that had all been similarly converted to multidimensional vectors. It was quick, scalable, concentrated the processing load on the indexing where it didn’t bog down retrieval, and could reliably return pages like “Why satellites fall from the sky” that might answer the question even though none of the same words were used.
Cringely, who has a less than perfect track record, said the approach “sounds darned similar” to Carolan’s description on Bloomberg and expects the old Excite patents to be changing hands soon as a valuable asset to compete with Siri. According to Cringely, the company’s creditors now own the Excite patents in question. Interestingly, the patent’s original inventor, Graham Spencer, now works as Engineering partner at Google Ventures following his role as Engineering director at Google. In March 2004, Excite was acquired by Ask Jeeves (now Ask.com).
We will have to wait and see if the patents end up providing value against Siri as competitors continue to emerge. If Cringely’s claims prove to be legitimate, there is of course always the possibility for Apple to acquire the patents if they truly prove to cover vital aspects of Siri’s technology.