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Amazon Kindle Fire HD is a 'worldwide bestseller'

Amazon Kindle Fire HD is a 'worldwide bestseller'

The Amazon Kindle Fire HD has been named the "#1 best-selling product across all of Amazon worldwide" by the online retail giant.

We saw Amazon launch the Kindle Fire HD back in September as it looked to tackle the Google Nexus 7 which took the budget tablet market by storm in the middle of this year.

Clearly wanting to take the fight to Google, and possibly firing a warning shot at Apple with its incoming iPad mini, Amazon has slapped a best-selling tag on its 7-inch Android tablet.

Sales figures mystery

Amazon hasn't been forthcoming with any sort of sales figures, or an explanation as to how the Kindle Fire HD has become a best-selling tablet – this could mean anything from its sold the most units of any product ever, or simply that it the most popular device at this time.

With all that in mind, we're taking Amazon's latest claim with a pinch of salt, as it's not clear how well the Kindle Fire HD is actually selling in comparison to other tablets on the market.

If you like the sound of the tablet, take a look at our Amazon Kindle Fire HD review, where the slate managed to score a respectable 4 out of 5.

In depth: Renault's first Android-powered car isn't what you think it is

In depth: Renault's first Android-powered car isn't what you think it is

Renault R-Link: Everything you need to know

Ever since Renault announced its intention to base its next infotainment platform on Android, we've been busting to give R-Link a go. And now we have. But is it any good?

Firstly, we should qualify everything that's about to follow with the proviso that R-Link isn't quite finalised. It's currently going through final testing and validation so things could change.

However, what we've seen in the new Clio is certainly representative in terms of look and feel if not full functionality. What's more, we've got a much better idea of Renault's intentions and attitudes when it comes to R-Link.

Renault Clio with R-Link

In other words, how does R-Link fit into the broader in-car infotainment landscape, what's it like to use, how does it compare to and perhaps function with more conventional Android devices, like phones and tablets? We can begin to answer questions like these.

Android answers

First up, in the new Clio R-Link is presented via a 7-inch touchscreen mounted in what Renault is calling a "tablet". That's actually a little misleading.

What we're really dealing with is a conventional infotainment screen located front and centre in the dash. The binnacle or pod it's mounted in has a somewhat floating appearance. But it's entirely fixed and houses various other functions, including ventilation.

Renault Clio with R-Link

Anyway, fire up R-Link and you're initially presented with a default home screen with six icons: Navigation, Multimedia, Phone, Vehicle, Services and System.

Poke and a prod

The screen itself is of tolerable quality and resolution (we're still trying to confirm the pixel count, but subjectively we wouldn't call it HD). Although we haven't had this confirmed, we're sure it's based on resistive rather than capacitive touch technology.

Consequently, you often need to give it a pretty deliberate stab to garner a response. That's the way it rolls with resistive touch - welcome to 2009.

Renault Clio with R-Link

Much of R-Link's functionality mirrors that of more conventional in-car systems. The built-in navigation, the music playback, the trip computer, that sort of thing.

Where things get interesting is when you hit the Services button and access the apps. At launch, Renault reckons around 20 apps will be available. You purchase them via the R-Link app store which you access exclusively in-car.

Android, but not as you know it

To be clear, Android in R-Link form is far removed from Android on your phone. You cannot, for instance, buy an app on your phone and transfer it to R-Link. It's effectively an entirely separate ecosystem.

Intriguingly, there is also no such thing as a free R-Link application, though buyers of R-Link equipped Renaults will get a free "discovery" app pack that lasts for three months.

Renault Clio with R-Link

The reasoning is that R-Link does not come with any data charges. It has a built in SIM and 3G connection. But as an end user, you'll never have to pick up the bill.

If you don't install any R-Link apps, that's fine as without apps, there are no internet connected features. But by making all apps come at a price, Renault is able to generate revenue to cover cellular access.

Exactly how this works with an app that doesn't require internet access isn't clear. However, we do know that at launch internet access will be restricted to your home territory or nation. Roaming isn't offered.

Walled garden

It's also worth appreciating that R-Link is in general a much more closed system than you'll be used to with Android. There are some fairly serious safety and security implications of running apps in a car.

Driver distraction is one obvious example. But simply running an unstable app or an app that opens up the car to hackers or malicious code has some pretty terrifying implications.

Renault Clio with R-Link

So, R-Link is very much locked down. Nothing will appear on the app store without thorough validation and Renault will not be providing open access to R-Link's code base.

As for pricing, Renault says apps will start from around four to five Euros and extend up to 50 Euros or more. The only hard example Renault is currently giving is the Coyote Series alerts system which is a partially crowd sourced database of road hazards that plugs into the navigation system.

Setting sights on SYNC

In use, the early versions of R-Link we've tried were not fully functional, but our early impressions are of modest hardware that's not designed to wow with swishy graphics and animations.

Indeed, if you didn't know it was Android based, you probably wouldn't have guessed. Perhaps the closest competitor system is Ford SYNC, which offers a pretty similar overall feature set but more contemporary graphics.

Renault Clio with R-Link

In fact, at this early stage, it's not entirely clear what advantages, if any, Renault is getting from using R-Link over, say, Windows CE. Renault confirmed to TechRadar, for instance, that R-Link will not sync in any special way or offer extended functionality with Android handsets.

Putting a price on technology

More generally, the problem for Renault is going to be a relatively tiny installed base. It reckons just 20 per cent of Clio buyers will tick the R-Link box.

Incidentally, Renault isn't ready to reveal how much that box tick will cost, but emphasises that it wants to makes R-Link broadly accessible – read cheap. Whatever the price, you're talking about a version of Android that will only appear on a fraction of one auto manufacturer's cars.

Renault Clio with R-Link

If Microsoft is having trouble getting developers to code apps for Windows 8, what hope for Renault? It says it is working proactively to bring developers on board and has a Paris based incubator to help do just that.But we foresee a major challenge so long as R-Link remains a walled garden.

Promising package

If all that sounds a little negative, we remain essentially well disposed towards R-Link and indeed the new Clio. The latter is a cracking little car, especially in TCe 90 trim with zingy three-cylinder 0.9l petrol engine.

Renault Clio with R-Link

Moreover, even if all of our fears regarding R-Link's limitations come true, it will still be a big step forward for Renault and in with a fighting chance of being one of if not the best in-car systems in the mainstream hatchback segment.

But what R-Link doesn't look like is the really dramatic step change for the car industry that its Android roots might lead you to expect.

In Depth: Streaming media in Windows 8: what you need to know

In Depth: Streaming media in Windows 8: what you need to know

Streaming media in Windows 8

Apple has AirPlay and Apple TV, which is fine if you're tied to the Apple ecosystem. Microsoft has Xbox 360, the best-selling console on the market month after month and Windows 8 ought to be able to build on that to make streaming music and video around your house simple.

Except, with all the choices on a PC, things are rarely simple.

In Windows 7, Windows Media Player has the Play To feature; this lets you stream music or video to a DLNA-certified device like a Sonos music player or a Western Digital TV adapter, or to another PC in your homegroup with Media Player on.

If it works, it works well. If it doesn't it's hard to troubleshoot. Windows 8 makes this both better and worse. Play To isn't limited to Windows Media Player any more - it's in Explorer and desktop Internet Explorer, it works with HTML5 video in web pages (including in the Metro IE browser) and it can be built right into applications.

It's in the Xbox music and Xbox video Windows Store apps, for example. And with the Charm bar, it can always be in the same place - open the Devices charm from an app to see what you can send your media to.

But Play To is also much more picky and what it really wants is a certified Play To receiver rather than just any DLNA device. Certified receivers support H.264 video with AAC, they have low latency so your video doesn't stutter, they can cope with complicated libraries of media rather than just flat folder structures, they have a standby mode to save power but can wake up remotely when you start playing and they use peer-to-peer Wi-Fi Direct to avoid complicated network issues.

And there's only a handful of them on the market so far. As of Windows 8 RTM the list was some 2011 Samsung SMART TVs, a couple of 2011 Sony DLNA TVs, three specific Altec Lansing LIVE speakers, the newer but not the older Western Digital TV Live media players, Windows Media Player on a Windows 7 or 8 PC, Windows Store apps that use the Windows 8 Digital Media Receiver API - and now the latest Xbox 360 update.

Windows 8 media streaming

Older DLNA devices like the Sonos players show up as 'uncertified' in the Windows 8 Devices list and they might or might not work with Play To.

This varied even on the same system in our tests. Some days we could see a Sonos ZonePlayer and send music to it, some days Windows thought we didn't have any Play To devices at all and the buttons in Media Player and Explorer were greyed out, even though the Sonos devices were still listed in Devices.

Sonos on Windows 8

Sonos Play to

At the moment, the new dashboard for Xbox 360 is the best and most reliable device to stream media to, and again there are lots of options.

Streaming media works differently depending on where the music or video comes from, as well as what application you start from.

The simplest experience is when you want to use the Xbox Music app on Windows 8 to play a track from the Xbox music service - or the Xbox video app on Windows 8 to play a video from the Xbox video service - on your Xbox.

Pick the Play button for the album or track in Xbox music and the app bar shows both 'Add to now playing' and 'Play' on Xbox 360 - the Xbox video app puts both options in the main menu on screen. Once you're listening to one track or album, anything else you select in Xbox music on your PC just offers you the 'Play on Xbox 360' button - simple.

While you're at it, you can use your PC to control the Xbox: tap on icons for the A, B, X and Y buttons and they do the same as the physical buttons on an Xbox controller (the more familiar you are with controlling the Xbox dashboard with a physical controller, the less confusing this is).

Playing video on Xbox from the Windows 8 Xbox video app takes you into the SmartGlass app where you can browse the Xbox dashboard.

Play on Xbox

Xbox music

If you want to play music or video you have stored on your own system, not from the Xbox music or video services, you have to start playing the video, album or track as normal - and then open the Charm bar, choose 'Devices' and pick Xbox 360 - or any other devices you can send media to, if you're lucky enough to see them show up here.

Xbox music app

Send video to Xbox

That's the same from the Metro IE browser; start playing HTML5 video, whether it's in a window on the web page or full screen, and you can use Devices to send it to your Xbox. Of course you may not know whether the video you're watching is HTML5 or not until you try to send it to another device…

HTML5 video on Xbox

If certified Play To devices become common, or DLNA devices start working more reliably with Windows 8, this will all be a fantastic way of streaming content around the house - especially if you buy into the new Xbox music service, which will include free streaming music on Windows 8 when it launches.

Today, it's great if you have an updated Xbox; the screen and speakers that it's connected to are likely to be much better for enjoying music and video on than your laptop or tablet, and your laptop or tablet is a much better way for most people to control an Xbox than a controller designed for gaming.

For older DLNA devices, unless it just works first time, it ends up being a frustrating experience.


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