Samsungs “John Snow” of “Slabtops” and other interesting mutations at the #ativ #premiere.

The house was pretty packed yesterday in London for Samsungs ‘Ativ premiere 2013’ event. Press, partners and people from Samsung from all parts of the globe milled around in a mostly darkened hall, patiently anticipating the new product releases the  company was about to give from its giant stage that was to be the focus of tonights events. 

Staring at Galaxies.

To be honest : We did wonder what the fuss was all about. Earlier this week Samsung had already leaked the specs of its “Galaxy Zoom” : Its recent addition to the Galaxy Smartphone line that was probably invented by the Hulk himself. In his unstoppable urge  ‘Hulk-Smash’ everything together, the Galaxy Zoom was born after they gave the green monster an S4 in one hand and a point & shoot in the other. When the green guy got the order to “Smash” them together, the Galaxy Zoom was born.  In short : An S4 with an actual optical zoom.  Future owners of this device who want to carry this in their pockets might get the line ” Is that an S4 Zoom in your pocket or are you really really happy to see me ? ”  Where the S4 Zoom “should” be a phone that feels like a point and shoot, the ‘other’ Hulk-Smash experiment leaves no room for interpretation. The Samsung Galaxy NX is a powerful DSLR (with interchangeable lenses) tied to an Android OS and a 4G connection. For those paparazzi who want to snap up that money shot of Lindsey Lohan latest nipple-slip and send it to the  Sun’s headquarters : they can now do it all from one device.  

“The John Snow of Slabtops”

Samsung definitely has the time and the recourses to throw ideas around and see if they stick, that much is for certain. Their growing market penetration (and the fact people are dragging their feet in Cupertino) gives them the space and the money to do so. But when they unveiled their Samsung Ativ Q, our initial response was “Meh ?”. A 13 inch “Tablet” that folds its screen and keyboard into multiple kama-sutra like positions is nothing new. Dell tried this once and came up with the horrible “Inspiron Duo”. The specs of Samsungs Ativ Q did raise some eyebrows as it sported a higher resolution then most Retina Macbooks ( 3200 by 1800 on a 13 inch display) and apparently had an “outdoor friendly screen” as its brightness would supposedly outshine the sun. For those who have stumpy digits (Hello Mr Hulk ?) you could also operate the thing with your S-Pen (pronounced “arse-pen”). Where Samsung DID surprise us was with the fact that this thing booted two operating systems side by side. On the one hand it comes with Samsungs latest ‘mutation’ of Android, on the other hand it comes with a “Full Blown” copy of Windows 8 (and Samsung throws in a free copy of Office 2013 to boot). This does make it the “John Snow” of Samsungs presentation. This ‘Bastard Son’ was born out of Samsungs monogamous wedlock with Android. Instead of being short, stumpy and ugly .. it might be the one thing that can save us all from the wildlings of … Oh wait .. I should put down my copy of Game of Thrones RIGHT NOW.  What I want to say is : With “multiple” operating systems, AND the ability to run Android apps IN WINDOWS .. this thing might be a sliders dream.  As for pricing and power consumption : we do not know whats coming. Perhaps this thing needs chewing-gum-sized strips of raw plutonium to run over an hour at ‘full power’. As for Samsungs heralded 8 hours battery life ? We will see.

The rest.

Overall there were some other 8 inch tablets, the Ativ Tab3,  running Windows 8 (full version) but their 64 gig drives and 2 gigs of ram will probably only please a few. Samsung took a stab at cross breeding this tablet with an iMac and came up with a pretty but wide-bezzeled “Ativ One 5” and also pushed out some interesting notebooks for people with fat and thinner wallets. But the “John Snow” of Slabtops .. was the highlight of the evening.


Does “Hulk Smash” work ?  Perhaps. The tricky thing with creating “crossover” devices is that our human minds do still think in patterns of one or the other. When C is the sum of A and B its gonna take us a while to get used to C… Until then we see ‘C’ as A+ or  B- ..  Are you any good at math ? Keep up ! ..  So smashing phones and camera’s together is not a guaranteed success right away, But hey … A couple of years ago “Hulk” smashed a computer and a phone together .. and now look at us.  

In the end the writing is on the wall : The lines between our devices is thinning. Laptops, Tablets, Phones, Camera’s, Desktops .. they are all starting to morph together. Wether you “undermine” a DSLR by turning it into a phone or “overpimp” an Android Slate by giving it Windows 8 Pro .. you are wading in murky depts.  Some of these mutations might die in childbirth, yet some of them might grow strong and redefine their very product name. Only time will tell. And time is money .. and money is something that Samsung has plenty to burn …

We will of course be offering up a full video coverage of this event in the upcoming week .. We just need to “Smash” it together. 

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Is the Wii U truly a (r)evolutionary Game Console ? Our man on the scene reports.

A short flashback and history of the gaming industry

Tom Palmaerts and the history of Gaming
Tom Palmaerts and the history of Gaming

Techies and geeks like me tend to play a good game from time to time. In my case, that’s probably because I grew up in an era where the first consoles were making their appearance. So when Knightwise asked me if I could be his eyes and ears at the Press Event where they would tell us everything about the Nintendo Wii U, I didn’t hesitate at all. Suddenly I was getting flashbacks of early gaming experiences …

The Press event started with a presentation from Tom Palmaerts a trendwathcer. In all honesty, I don’t really like trendwatchers. But this time Tom grabbed my attention.


In the beginning there were Pixels and Sprites

So, we started out with a quick trip through the gaming history. First stop was Double Dragon. Oh … the memories … I remember that game from the good old Commodore 64 days. Those days pixel count and screen resolution wasn’t the most important aspect of games, we played because it was new … but times change.

Still I had flashbacks to the days where we had 3 lives in a game, and we had to start all over once we lost the third life. The days when you couln’t save games if you approached a difficult part of the game. The days when we had to wait 30 minutes for our Commodore 64 to load a game from an audio tape. The days when we had a square box with a stick and a single red button. The days when I ‘hacked’ my Commodore 64 using a paperclip and got hold of the BASIC code from the Kentilla game. The days when … oh … time to get back on topic …

What makes the Wii (and now also the Wii U) so unique is that there are a lot of games which are specifically targetted to families and groups of friends. Apparently 40% of parents play video games with their kids on a weekly basis. The main reasons are :

  • because it’s fun to play games with your children
  • because the kids asked you
  • some way of checking the content of the games
  • and probably because parents love it too 🙂


What makes the Wii U so unique ?

The Wii U with it's GamePad
The Wii U with it’s GamePad

Thee Nintendo Wii U now comes with a GamePad. The GamePad has a Touch enabled LCD display. The advantage here is that you have a ‘second screen’ which you can use for quite a few things. For example the display on the GamePad cold be something completely different to what you seen on the TV screen. This could add an extra dimension to some of the games.

After the presentation we were invited to the first Game Room where we had the opportunity to test some of the games out. In New Super Mario Bros U the GamePad was used to help other players by placing blocks in the game world. Additionally the Nintendo people told us that you could use the GamePad to play as well. For example … lets say my son was playing a game on the Wii U, but I want to see todays football game. Normally this would mean my son would have to stop playing, but in the case of the Wii U he can continue his game on the GamePad while I’m watching TV.

We also played Mario’s Ghost, one of the 12 games in Mario Land. This game looked a bit like a PacMan clone. The goal of the game is to capture an invisible ghost by shining your flashlight on it. So 4 of us were playing as ghost chasers on the TV while one person was playing as the ghost on the GamePad. The person on the GamePad could see where everyone was running, but the rest of us couldn’t see the ghost on the big screen. I have to say … it was fun.


On to the 18+ Games Room

Rayman Legends on the Wii U
Rayman Legends on the Wii U

Enough of the family games, time for some hard core action … so we moved to the 18+ Games Room which was rather dark and spooky. In this room we had 4 more Wii U devices to play with, each with it’s own game ranging from Rayman Legends to Ninja Gaiden 3 and ZombiU. Zombies … now we’re talking blood, gore … and fun 🙂 My first impression … wow …

Actually, I had a few issues with the gameplay at first. Some things in the game had to be done on the GamePad while the TV screen was your first person view of the area. The GamePad was used for your inventory, picking up loot from corpses, seeing how much ammo you still had, sniping, and it also acted as a radar which allowed you to see where the zombies were. And that was where I had some troubles. Not sure if it was only me, but I seemed to have some issues looking at the two displays (TV and GamePad) and performing actions on one while watching the other. But the ZombiU game was amazing and I would love to play that game at home. Great settings (center of London), nice graphics, creepy atmosphere and lots of zombies to kill … what could be more fun.

The wii U System with Controllers and GamePad
The wii U System with Controllers and GamePad

To finish things up, we were informed that there would be two different Nintendo Wii U packs. The Wii U Basic Pack has a white Wii U system with 8 Gb of flash storage, and of course white controllers and a white GamePad. The Premium Pack contains a black Wii U system with 32 Gb of flash storage, black controllers and a black GamePad. Additionally the Premium Pack comes with some additional accessories like a stand for the GamePad, a charging station for the GamePad and the Nintendo Land game. Both packs should be available in stores on the 30 th of november. As for the price, they didn’t tell us, and we were informed to ask the distributors.

As for the question if the Wii U is truly an evolution of the Game Console, I would have to give you a very vague answer. We did get some time to play with the device, but not enough time to really form an opinion on the use of the GamePad. But surely the GamePad can add an extra dimension to certain games. But if it would allow me to play the ZombiU game then I would probably buy it 🙂

More pictures of the event can be found in my Flickr set and if you are interested in a Dutch version of this article you can read it on my own website.


About the author

Stefaan is a Software Developer by trade, but also active as a Tech Reporter and Podcaster mostly in Dutch / Flemish. You can find out more about him on his blog at iTutor Podcast or check out the Tech45 Podcast.

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