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Easy Solutions Helps Fight Mobile Banking Fraud with Detect Safe Browsing (DSB) 4.0, Now Available for iPhone and Android

  • Posted on October 21, 2017 at 3:23 pm

Easy Solutions, the Total Fraud Protection® company, today released Detect Safe Browsing (DSB) version 4.0. With DSB 4.0, financial institution can provide an important additional layer of fraud prevention to the end-user, to better protect against malware and other sophisticated threats such as, pharming, man-in-the-middle (MITM) and man-in-the browser (MITB) attacks. With DSB 4.0, Easy Solutions now extends this support to the two most popular mobile platforms: Android and iOS, ensuring that over 90%1 of mobile users can securely access their mobile banking accounts.

The APWG recently reported over 1.3 million confirmed-malicious files for Android alone2, making mobile malware one of the fastest growing classes of threats.

“Mobile banking has become the preferred method for many consumers to conduct their online banking. Unfortunately for financial institutions, some of the most insidious and difficult-to-detect malware is now being targeted at the mobile end-point,” said Daniel Ingevaldson, CTO of Easy Solutions. “With Detect Safe Browsing now available for iPhone and Android devices, financial institutions will be able to provide their customers with a simple and unobtrusive way to secure their mobile banking experience.”

DSB is a critical component of Easy Solutions’ Total Fraud Protection platform, which provides comprehensive fraud protection across all channels, and extended to the end-user. By combining cross-channel risk-scoring, transaction anomaly detection, multi-factor authentication, secure browsing, and detection and take-down services, Easy Solutions blocks criminals at all three phases of the fraud lifecycle – planning, launching, and cashing – while ensuring that authorized users can conduct business.

DSB 4.0 from Easy Solutions provides visibility and real-time intelligence of the threats impacting consumers. Based on a proprietary cross validation technology that prevents re-direction to fraudulent websites, DSB 4.0 includes some of the following capabilities:

  • Secure Mobile Browsing with the DSB App: The free DSB app, now available for both iOS and Android devices, gives customers a simple way to protect bank transactions performed on their mobile device or tablet
  • Accelerated Disinfection: DSB enables customers to quickly deploy on-demand cleanup procedures for malware related advanced persistent threats (APTs), enabling financial institutions to mitigate zero-day and targeted attacks.
  • Active Phishing Protection: DSB provides enhanced phishing protection based on Detect Monitoring Services’ (DMS) black list. Since DMS detects phishing attacks in early stages, DSB users are protected from the very latest phishing scams, minimizing their exposure to fraud.
  • Proactive, Real-time Malware Protection: DSB employs proprietary cross-validation technology that detects DNS poisoning and ensures that the end user can connect to the protected site. When an active redirection is detected, DSB stops the fraudulent connection.

ABOUT EASY SOLUTIONS

Easy Solutions delivers Total Fraud Protection® to over 100 clients, with over 32 million end users. The company’s products protect against phishing, pharming, malware, Man-in-the-Middle and Man-in-the-Browser attacks, and deliver multifactor authentication and transaction anomaly detection. For more information, visit http://www.easysol.net, or follow us on Twitter @goeasysol.

Yahoo!’s Earnings and the Future of Display Ads

  • Posted on October 19, 2017 at 2:41 pm

Investors were upset that Yahoo! Inc.’s (YHOO) quarterly results showed a sharp drop in display advertising revenue. And, based on its forecasts, that will not get any better soon. The Yahoo! trouble is not an isolated case. Display rates have started to collapse across the industry, making a chance for Internet advertising to expand as fast as it has over the past decade impossible. That represents trouble for tens of thousands of businesses.

Yahoo!’s revenue fell 7% in the second quarter compared to last year, drifting down to $1.22 billion. Wall St. focused mostly on one comment:

Iconic Brands That Just Vanished

GAAP display revenue was $472 million for the second quarter of 2013, a 12 percent decrease compared to $535 million for the second quarter of 2012.

At the same time, there was no evidence that Yahoo!’s audience fell, so the yield from the average display ad fell considerably.

Yahoo! holds a special place among America’s Internet companies. In the United States, according to research firm comScore, it had a monthly audience of unique visitor that was above 192.9 million in May. That put it a very close second to Google Inc.’s (GOOG), which was 193.5 million. Because of its huge size, the trends set by Yahoo! almost certainly represent those of most of the balance of the industry.

States That Drink the Most Beer

The bane of display advertising today is that so many Web properties have decided to stake their futures on content delivered on small devices, which include, primarily, smartphones. All of the evidence indicates that advertisers will pay less for messages they post on these smaller screens. Actually, the amount marketers will pay for this content environment is much, much less than for traditional display ads that appear on personal computers (PCs). In an attempt to chase the online content audience as it migrates away from PCs, Internet companies have badly damaged future revenue prospects. The trouble is that people will watch content on smaller screens whether online content sites like it or not.

Most experts hope that falling display ad rates can be offset by the increase in video content on the Internet. Advertisers will pay a great deal more for video ads than display ads. So, there is a rush to create this sort of programming. But the likelihood that video can balance the drop in display rates appears unlikely.

Beyond Google’s YouTube, the amount of video posted on the Internet by large content companies is relatively small. In May, Google sites had 154.4 million unique video viewers, driven almost exclusively by YouTube. These visitors spent an average of 437 minutes on Google sites in May. After that, video viewership at other sites drops very sharply. For example, Microsoft Corp. (MSFT) sites had 45.2 million unique video viewers in May. The average time these viewers spent watching video on Microsoft sites was only 36.9 minutes, barely more than a half-hour TV show.

Internet advertising may remain at current levels in terms of volume, but the monetary yield from these ads likely will never return.

The Apache Software Foundation Announces Apache(tm) Mesos(tm) as a Top-Level Project

  • Posted on October 11, 2017 at 6:50 am

The Apache Software Foundation (ASF), the all-volunteer developers, stewards, and incubators of nearly 150 Open Source projects and initiatives, announced today that Apache Mesos has graduated from the Apache Incubator to become a Top-Level Project (TLP), signifying that the project’s community and products have been well-governed under the ASF’s meritocratic process and principles.

Apache Mesos is a cluster manager that provides efficient resource isolation and sharing across distributed applications, or frameworks. It can run multiple frameworks, including Apache Hadoop, MPI, Hypertable, Jenkins, Storm, and Spark, as well as other applications and custom frameworks.

“It was our goal all along to see Mesos become a kernel of the infrastructure stack of the future,” said Benjamin Hindman, Vice President of Apache Mesos. “The project’s graduation from the Apache Incubator is recognition that the software is mature and has brought together a diverse community to sustain it in the future.”

Initially created at the University of California at Berkeley’s AMPLab (the research center also responsible for the original development of Apache Spark) to manage resource sharing and isolation in data centers, Mesos acts as a layer of abstraction between applications and pools of servers. Mesos helps avoid the necessity of creating separate clusters to run individual frameworks and instead making it possible to optimize how jobs are executed across shared machines.

Whilst in the Apache Incubator, Mesos had four releases, and established an Open Source community according to The Apache Way of governance. Additional improvements to the project includes its flexibility to support several application framework languages, and scalability that has been production tested to thousands of nodes and simulated to tens of thousands of nodes and hundreds of frameworks.

Apache Mesos has proven to be reliable for use in production, and has already been adopted by several organizations for cluster management.

“Mesos is the cornerstone of our elastic compute infrastructure,” explained Chris Fry, Senior Vice President of Engineering at Twitter. “It’s how we build all our new services and is critical for Twitter’s continued success at scale … one of the primary keys to our data infrastructure efficiency.”

“We’re using Mesos to manage cluster resources for most of our data infrastructure,” said Brenden Matthews, Engineer at Airbnb and Apache Mesos Committer. “We run Chronos, Storm, and Hadoop on top of Mesos in order to process petabytes of data.” (Chronos is an Airbnb-developed Mesos framework as a replacement for cron, and an example of how custom frameworks can be developed on Mesos to leverage its resource sharing).

“Community support for Apache Mesos is encouraging, particularly as more companies assess how they manage their clusters and look for more efficiency,” added Hindman. “Now that we’ve graduated, we look forward to continuing to grow the number of Mesos adopters and fostering an ecosystem around the project.”

Availability and Oversight
As with all Apache products, Apache Mesos software is released under the Apache License v2.0, and is overseen by a self-selected team of active contributors to the project. A Project Management Committee (PMC) guides the Project’s day-to-day operations, including community development and product releases.

Facebook offers the dummy’s guide to mobile advertising

  • Posted on October 7, 2017 at 3:39 pm

Facebook Inc’s mobile advertising success offers a ray of hope for Internet companies trying to make money within the confines of the smartphone’s small screen.

The social network’s 75 percent surge in mobile ad revenue in a span of just three months not only doused skepticism on Wall Street and Madison Avenue about Facebook’s business prospects, some say it could serve as a how-to guide for other Web companies navigating a world where the phone and tablet have fast become the screens of choice.

Facebook’s “Newsfeed” ads, which inject marketing messages straight into a user’s content stream and are tailored for mobile devices, were the stars behind the social network’s stunning numbers on Wednesday.

“You’re going to see a lot of companies transitioning and trying to emulate this model because it’s working so well. That’s why last night was a true watershed moment,” said Ben Schachter, an analyst at Macquarie Research.

Internet company executives have long been concerned that mobile advertising is inherently less lucrative than traditional desktop PC advertising, due to the smartphone’s limited screen size and possible consumer resistance to a flood of ads on their devices.

Companies from Google Inc and Yahoo Inc to upstarts such as Snapchat are searching for the right formula to monetize mobile services. While Google has developed a mobile ad business generating an estimated $10 billion a year in revenue, it remains much smaller and less lucrative than Google’s desktop search advertising. Analysts expect Google to generate $60 billion in annual revenue this year.

That wholesale exploration of “native ads” – or marketing messages intended to blend with a users’ personal content, rather than stand out as an ad – has met with varying success.

Twitter, which pioneered the concept of the in-stream ad even before Facebook, may also be well-positioned to benefit from mobile ads. “Sponsored” messages now pop up abruptly in the middle of streams of tweets, but analysts say the frequency is much lower on Facebook newsfeeds.

More than half of the privately held company’s revenue will come from mobile ads this year, reckons Clark Fredricksen, at industry research firm eMarketer.

Some are just getting into the game. This week, LinkedIn Corp, the network for business professionals, rolled out in-stream ads on mobile and PC versions of its service. Yahoo has experimented with similar types of ads, and acquired blogging hub Tumblr for $1.1 billion in May, in part to jumpstart efforts at developing new formats.

But it’s Facebook, which a year ago had zero mobile revenue, that has most aggressively promoted its mobile advertising business to Madison Avenue – with seeming success.

“Compared to other companies, nobody has come right out and said mobile is our sole focus now,” said Angela Steele, CEO of Ansible, part of advertising holding company IPG. “Facebook put all their eggs in one basket.”

FOLLOWING SUIT

One longstanding question has been how much tolerance consumers have for ads that disrupt their stream of content. Facebook said it has steadily increased the number of ads in the news stream without noticing a drop in user satisfaction.

Facebook Chief Executive Mark Zuckerberg said on Wednesday that, on average, ads now account for 5 percent or one in 20 “stories” in the newsfeed. That ratio could now provide a baseline for calculating success, prompting other Web companies to raise the frequency of ads in their streams.

“It wouldn’t surprise me if other companies would look at that and follow suit,” said Ansible’s Steele.

Hussein Fazal, the CEO of AdParlor, which manages advertising campaigns on Facebook, guesses that the social network must have gradually opened the spigot, gauging user reaction and adjusting the stream all the while.

They seemed to have hit on the right formula, but it’s one that differs across platforms, he said.

“The reason Facebook can do it is, the rest of the content that’s there is so engaging that you don’t mind one out of every 20 ads,” he said. “If you have a newsfeed that’s not so engaging, and you keep seeing ads, then it doesn’t work.”

Plus, the more ads in the stream, the less users will click on them, which can dampen ad prices, he added.

Facebook’s seeming success on mobile devices contrasts with Google’s more gradual improvement in that area. The No. 1 Internet search engine has gradually managed to narrow declines in its overall ad rates from the mobile effect, but last quarter they reversed and went down again, disappointing investors.

Google has avoided news stream ads entirely in its Google+ social network. Instead, its mix of mobile search ads, video ads and innovative formats such as “click-to-call” have delivered what RBC Capital Markets analyst Mark Mahaney estimates is a $10 billion annualized run rate for its mobile business, about four times as much as Facebook.

But mobile has driven down the average cost of Google ads, and some industry watchers consider the transition a long-term threat to the search giant. But other analysts say recent changes to the way it sells ads to marketers, blurring the distinction between the mobile and PC, could help bolster rates.

Google Maps for iPad Launched

  • Posted on October 2, 2017 at 6:57 pm

Jakarta – After a week after Google Maps launched for Android users, the information technology company is now re-presenting feature map for iPad users. Google Maps 2.0 can be enjoyed globally since Tuesday, July 16, 2013.
Features that are designed for use with the device’s larger screen choose the look with clearer images and soft colors.
Just like the Android version, iOS-based applications include traffic information in real time. Google Maps 2.0 comes with Foursquare and navigation that includes information about a variety of places, including restaurants and shopping centers.
This application actually has not been downloaded from the App Store could in their home country, the United States. Yet it can be downloaded for users in Asia.
Google Maps before, they can be enjoyed by users of smart phones iPhone. Launch the application updates to follow up on complaints that come from iPhone users, especially iPhone 5 to Apple Maps. Users complained about the lack of accuracy especially on Apple Maps. Apple Management then apologized in writing to the users of the iPhone and iPad.
Service on the map offers features traffic information, navigation, transit directions, satellite, road, indoor photos, restaurant reviews, and the integration of the Google profile. Unlike other Google apps made​​, this map is a special feature produced for the default operating system iOS. The application advantages are speed and small file size so it does not take much memory.

Lawyer Plugin for WordPress Promises Legal Resources and Nationwide Attorney Network

  • Posted on September 29, 2017 at 3:02 pm

After two years of development, Lawyer Plugin (www.lawyerplugin.com) launched their first public version of what promises to be an essential plugin for any lawyer running a WordPress website.

Lawyer Plugin is the first plugin of its kind: it gives law firms access to hundreds of local resources which are automatically added, updated, and synced with Lawyer Plugin’s central servers every 24 hours.

The registration takes care of all settings automatically. For example, a bankruptcy lawyer in Tampa, Florida, creates his profile with his law firm’s name, address, city, state, and practice area(s). The plugin automatically pulls bankruptcy- and Florida-related resources onto the resource page which is created by the plugin. With that, the firm becomes part of the peer-to-peer legal directory which is then displayed on the websites of every plugin user.

Block Competition

When creating the plugin, the peer-to-peer directory presented a major challenge. A law firm does not want to display competing law firms on their website. To solve this problem, Lawyer Plugin has been designed to filter competitors and only displays non-competing listings on each user’s website.

Here is how the filter works:

Smith & Smith bankruptcy lawyers in Tampa, Florida, install Lawyer Plugin.

Lisa Johnson & Associates, elder law attorneys in Asheville, North Carolina, also installs Lawyer Plugin.

Bradley Baker & James bankruptcy lawyers in Tampa Florida installs Lawyer Plugin.

Foz & Oz Attorneys at Law, bankruptcy lawyers in Los Angeles, California, installs Lawyer Plugin, too.

On the Smith & Smith resources page, Lawyer Plugin will display the listing for Lisa Johnson & Associates, because that firm does not compete in Smith & Smith’s local market. It will also display the listing for bankruptcy attorneys Foz & Oz. Even though they are bankruptcy lawyers, Foz & Oz are in Los Angeles, and therefore not competing with the Tampa, Florida practice.

However, Bradley Baker & James will not be included on Smith & Smith’s website, and Smith & Smith will not be included on Bradley Baker & James website. Lisa Johnson & Associates will display listings for all three of the above firms, because none of them compete with her practice.

A Fun Brand for a Serious Industry

Lawyer Plugin breaks out of the stuffy legal mold. On Lawyerplugin.com, users will not find any bookshelves, gavels, or court house columns. Instead, they are offered an outlet for venting with a “Hate Mail” form and noting in their legal disclaimer that the plugin has not displayed any “violent behavior,” but cautions that the “adolescent years are right around the corner.”

Last year, Lawyer Plugin posted teasers on its Facebook and Twitter profiles as beta testing began. The question was asked: “How awesome will Lawyer Plugin be?” The answers —

Coffee will drink Lawyer Plugin to wake up.

You will never need a flu shot. The flu will need a Lawyer Plugin shot.

The earth will no longer rotate around the sun. The sun will be too busy rotating around Lawyer Plugin.

And it was even predicted that Christmas will begin celebrating Lawyer Plugin.

The Lawyer Plugin’s financial backers plan to keep the plugin free. Lawyer Plugin will continue to receive funding indefinitely as add-ons are developed, and a paid, professional version of Lawyer Plugin is also in the works.

Lawyer Plugin is free and out in the court of public opinion. The developers are thirsty for user feedback and additional ideas for features.

Yahoo Sports Launches New Fantasy App With Mobile Drafting

  • Posted on September 26, 2017 at 7:58 am

Yahoo announced that it has launched its new 2013 Fantasy Sports app today, which brings a new design, and new features to the experience.

One of the big new improvements is that it now features mobile drafting, which many will find tremendously helpful. It’s a lot of pressure to be at a computer during draft time.

 

“Managers can now sign up, draft a team and win their league championship from their iOS and Android device thanks to new technology incorporated by Bignoggins Production, Loki Studios and the Yahoo! Sports mobile team,” a spokesperson for Yahoo tells WebProNews. “The app also now features mock drafting, to help fans prepare and get an edge on the competition.”

Yahoo announced its acquisition of Bignoggins just a few weeks ago. They haven’t wasted any time.

“And starting with football, for the first time ever, all of Yahoo! Sports Fantasy games will live under one mobile roof – the Yahoo! Sports Fantasy app – including basketball, hockey and baseball,” the spokesperson adds.

According to Yahoo, the new app is faster than previous experiences. It also has free notifications.

The app is available for iOS and Android.

NSA intercepted, Apple, Google, Microsoft alliance

  • Posted on September 23, 2017 at 4:32 pm

Jakarta – A giant technology company formed an alliance to demand transparency from the U.S. government related information monitoring program of the National Security Agency (NSA) called PRISM.
The alliance involves companies such as Apple, Google, Facebook, and Microsoft. In alliance was also a number of civic groups. In a letter that will be announced in a few hours, the alliance which amounts to 63 companies, investors, and non-profit organizations is asking for clearer rules about such things.
“Basic information about the way the government enforce laws related activities have been published during this investigation does not interfere with the investigation,” read one of the points in the letter obtained by AllThingsD on Wednesday, July 17, 2013.
The Alliance requested that they be allowed the right to announce the number of government requests for data on the users of their services. They also requested that the number of users, accounts, and information held gadget that can be announced.
Alliance also assess the amount of requests basic information about the content and the user, could be made public as part of their transparency.
At the same time, the alliance will also ask the government to announce a number of requests and the number of individuals whose data is requested from the technology companies.
This letter will be addressed to President Barack Obama and congressional leaders. Here are some names of firms and associations involved in this alliance:
Yahoo, AOL, Apple, Digg, Dropbox, Evoca, Facebook, Google, HeyZap, LinkedIn, Meetup, Microsoft, Mozilla, Reddit, salesforce.com, Tumblr, and Twitter.
Also there younow, Union Square Ventures, Y Combinator, New Atlantic Ventures, The Electronic Frontier Foundation, Human Rights Watch, the American Civil Liberties Union, the Center for Democracy & Technology.
In addition, there are elements of the press and advocacy organizations such as Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press, Public Knowledge, the Computer & Communications Industry Association, Reporters Without Borders, and the Wikimedia Foundation.

4 SEO Tips for Launching a New Website and New Brand

  • Posted on September 21, 2017 at 4:30 pm

Launching a new website is hard. Launching a new brand with that new website can be downright madness.

Just ask Moz. Or iAcquire. Apparently, 2013 is the year of the marketing agency rebrand, and I’m happy to announce we’re part of that list, too: Last week, 352 Media Group became 352.

Those 2½ months spent building our new website and our new brand were the hardest I’ve ever worked in my life. They were also the most rewarding, and despite my incessant cursing, I wouldn’t trade it for anything. Why? Because look at the old site:

Holy wow.

Whenever you launch a site, everyone just sees the design change, but rarely do you see the behind the scenes – and I’m not just talking about design iterations, although there were probably 13 of those – work that goes into a new website. We’re assuming you’ve already redid your keyword and market research.

That’s A Lot of Redirects

Thankfully, the domain didn’t change, but the URL structure did change to directory style. I used Ruth Burr’s template for domain migrations, but made some tweaks.

First, pull every single URL that’s on your root domain. I used both Screaming Frog and our database to make sure I wasn’t missing anything. Drop into Excel and start analyzing what’s going where on your new site.

We work in agile web development, which accounts for short sprints of work (in our case, two weeks at a time) when at the end we’d be able to launch full functionally pieces of our website. Think of it like building a house one room completely at a time.

Because this bad boy needed to be up before mid-July, the planned to launch with the Slim Fast version of our sitemap: A lot of pages weren’t going to exist yet, but they would soon. That meant a lot of pages of our existing site weren’t going to move yet, but they would.

So, in addition to the 301s and 404s, I added a section of what was going to be in Phase II to make our support departments’ lives a little easier. I think it worked.

Analytics

I admit it: I didn’t remember to install the analytics code on our new site until 24 hours before the site launched. *Facepalm*.

Seriously: Don’t forget it, but also, don’t settle for the basic version. There is so much more that you can see with a little customization, and you need to think about what makes most sense for you. For us, there were three big ones:

  • Enhanced in-page to see where people were clicking.
  • Page scrolling to see how far down people were going on our pages.
  • Event tracking to see how people interacted with our video.
  • Event tracking to see how often people clicked on our contact information.

Sitemaps

If your URLs are changing, so will your sitemaps. Don’t forget to generate a new XML sitemap and resubmit me that GWT to speed up indexation of your new site. We went the multiple XML sitemap approach, one of our main site and one for our blog.

Holy Crap: We Aren’t No. 1 For Our Name

That’s every SEO professional’s nightmare. We’re living that right now. We decided to change our name in January. In May, we took a match to our old site and started over from scratch. Around June, someone finally said “Hey, I wonder where we’ll be ranked with our new brand name.”

Page 3. PAGE 3?!

Logically, it makes sense. 352 is the area code of Gainesville, Florida, our headquarters and our namesake. Sure, we’ve been known simply as 352 (tree-five-two) for 15+ years both by clients and internally, search engines weren’t making that connection.

Why would they? All of our brand links are 352 Media Group, and all of our content was 352 Media Group. We also don’t have nearly the social community that Moz does to blog, link and tweet the name change that would clued Google in sooner.

While our new brand does come with a whole new keyword targeting – Pro tip: Start your new keyword research very early – I couldn’t care less about our exact-match anchor text until we’re showing up No. 1 for “352.” How do you do it? Pull your backlink using your favorite tool, go down and find all of the links with your brand name, and start contacting.

Trust me: Start this process very early if you’re changing name, as in way before you officially launch. Start by reaching out to people who you know can queue up their change to go live on your exact launch date, for example, your author bio for any places you’re a contributor. Don’t forget to make sure your internal team changes any links they have on personal websites.

I’m in the thick of this now, and you never really realize how many brand links you have until you’re staring at a 4-digit long Excel spreadsheet.

Keeping Momentum Post Launch

Last year, I went skydiving. There’s a moment about 30 seconds into your free fall where you convince yourself that the shoot should have opened by now, and this was going to be it. Then, the chord pulls, you shoot up vertically, and you feel the biggest rush of relief because you are, in fact, going to make it through.

At 3:52 p.m. – see what we did there? – on July 16, 2013, I got that same rush from the launch of our site.

And while the honeymoon of the new brand only lasted about 24 hours until my inbox was flooded with feedback, I needed that kick to keep up the momentum our team had with post-launch iterations.

There will be things you don’t think of. There will be bugs you missed. There will be internal feedback that makes more sense. There will definitelybe user feedback you didn’t even know existed. You need an organized way to keep track of all of this.

My agency used TFS and work through a backlog of items based off client priority and effort to complete the task. This helps us better see the cool things we want to do and where it lies based on priority.

It’s not the most intuitive, and we’re searching for some something a little more user friendly, but it works well enough for now.

If you’re going through a new site launch, I feel you, buddy. It’s long. It’s a pain in the ass. Sometimes, you just want to quit. It’s extremely difficult not to get discouraged, but the end result will be worth it.

Don’t get disappointed if you forget something. There’s a lot to do, and we missed a few “Well, duh” things post launch, but it’s OK. That’s the beauty of constant iterations.

Review: First 8-inch Windows tablet is a device that shouldn’t exist

  • Posted on September 13, 2017 at 12:31 pm

My dissatisfaction with PC OEMs is something I have documented in the past. They offer a confusing array of products and tend to cut corners in the worst ways imaginable. The OEM response to Windows 8 has been to produce a wide range of machines sporting novel form factors to fit all sorts of niches, both real and imagined.

One niche that the OEMs haven’t tried to fill, however, has been sub-10-inch tablets. That’s not altogether surprising. Microsoft designed Windows 8 for screens of 10 inches or more, and initially the operating system’s hardware requirements had a similar constraint.

That decision looked a little short-sighted after the success of tablets such as the Google Nexus 7 and the iPad mini. Accordingly, Microsoft changed the rules in March, opening the door to a range of smaller Windows tablets.

The Acer Iconia W3 is the first—and currently the only—8-inch Windows tablet. That attribute alone makes it in some sense noteworthy. Sadly, it’s about the only thing that does.

Spec-wise, this is another Intel Clover Trail tablet, and its internals are basically the same as the devices that launched last year (such as its bigger brother, the Acer Iconia W510). This means 1.8 GHz, dual core, four thread Intel Atom Z2760 CPU, 2 GB RAM, 64 GB flash storage (which with Acer’s default partitioning leaves a little over 29 GB usable), front and rear cameras, Bluetooth 4.0, and 802.11b/g/n (no 5 GHz support). There’s a micro-HDMI and micro-USB port for external connectivity (a separate cable converts the micro USB port into a full-size one), along with an SD card slot. The tablet has a speaker adequate for notification sounds but little more.

As a result, performance and battery life are similar to what we’ve seen before. The Iconia W3 comes equipped with full-blown Windows 8, unlike ARM tablets, so it can run any 32-bit Windows application—should you really want to. Clover Trail’s GPU performance is such that games and other graphics-intensive programs won’t run well, however.

Eight inches of horror

The new bits on this tablet are really the screen and the size.

Screens are important. We spend essentially all our time interacting with devices looking at screens. Cost-cutting on screens is unforgivable, as a bad screen will damage every single interaction you have with the device. This goes doubly so for tablets, where the screen works not only as an output device but also as the primary input device.

The Acer Iconia W3’s screen is a standout—because it is worst-in-class. I hated every moment I used the Iconia W3, and I hated it because I hated the screen. Its color accuracy and viewing angles are both miserable (whites aren’t white—they’re weirdly colorful and speckled). The screen has a peculiar grainy appearance that makes it look permanently greasy. You can polish as much as you like; it will never go away. The whole effect is reminiscent in some ways of old resistive screens.

It’s hard to overstate just how poor this screen is. At any reasonable tablet viewing distance, the color of the screen is uneven. The viewing angle is so narrow that at typical hand-held distances, the colors change across the width of the screen. At full arm’s length the screen does finally look even, but the device is obviously unusable that way.

Acer has clearly skimped on the screen. I’m sure the panel in the W3 was quite cheap, and that may be somewhat reflected in the unit’s retail price ($379 for a 32GB unit, $429 for this 64GB one—putting it at the same price as the 32GB iPad mini, which has a comparable amount of available disk space), but who cares? It doesn’t matter how cheap something is if you don’t want to use it at all.

This poor screen quality isn’t a question of resolution, either. 1280×800 is not a tremendously high resolution, but text looks crisp enough. At 186 pixels per inch, 1280×800 feels more or less OK for this size of device.

The low resolution does, however, have one significant drawback: it disables Windows 8’s side-by-side Metro multitasking, which requires a resolution of at least 1366×768. The W3’s screen is 86 pixels too narrow, so the Metro environment is strictly one application at a time.

This is an unfortunate decision. The side-by-side multitasking is one of the Metro environment’s most compelling features. Keeping Twitter or Messenger snapped to the side makes a lot of sense and works well. I’ve never used Windows 8 on a device that didn’t support side-by-side Metro multitasking before, and I don’t ever want to again.

Size-wise, the W3 may be small for a Windows tablet, but it’s not exactly small. It’s fat. The W3 is 11.4 mm thick. The iPad mini, in comparison, is 7.2 mm thick. The Iconia W3 is also heavy at 500 g; the iPad mini, in comparison, is 308 g. That makes the W3 more than 50 percent thicker and more than 50 percent heavier.

The thickness makes the lack of a full-sized USB port on the device more than a little confusing. There’s certainly room for a full USB port, and a full port would be more convenient than the dongle. But for whatever reason, Acer didn’t give us one.

The device itself feels solid enough, albeit plasticky. It doesn’t exude quality, but it’s a step or two up from the bargain basement.

Keyboard non-dock

The W3 also has a keyboard accessory. As is common for this kind of thing, the keyboard has no electrical connection to the tablet. It’s a Bluetooth keyboard powered by a pair of AAA batteries. It has a groove along the top that can hold the tablet in both landscape and portrait orientations and a clip on the back that lets you use the keyboard as a kind of screen protector.

The keyboard has to be manually paired to the tablet. It’s more or less full-size, with a reasonable key layout. It’s a typical mediocre keyboard. The feel is a little on the squishy side, lacking the crispness of, for example Microsoft’s Type Cover for its Surface tablets. It’s better than any on-screen keyboard, and to that extent it does its job. But it’s a long way from being an actually good keyboard.

The groove does hold the tablet up, and on a level surface the unit doesn’t topple over, but it’s not as satisfactory as some of the hinged keyboard/docks we’ve seen on other devices. Tilt the base while carrying it or using it on your lap and the tablet is liable to fall out.