Asus talks Nexus 7 and Apple launches its latest salvo

Mountain Lion, Google tablets and wheely good ideas

Asus Nexus 7

Fancy a shiny new tablet? Then get yourself to the Carphone Warehouse: from Friday, you'll be able to buy Google's blockbusting Nexus 7 from the phone retailer.

The Nexus has been a big hit - so much so that Google's sold out of the 16GB version, which is currently "coming soon" on the Play Store. No such worries for the Carphone Warehouse whose site, at the time of writing at least, is offering the 16GB model on next day delivery.

While everyone calls the Nexus 7 a Google tablet, it's actually made by Asus - and the firm has taken the very unusual step of sending us details of its involvement in the project. It's fascinating stuff, not least because of the speed at which the project took shape: as Dan Grabham explains, "the idea for the device was only born in January". The whole project was turned around in just four months, compared to the usual six to twelve month product cycle.

As an insight into how firms design hardware, it's very interesting: Asus thought about everything from how headphone cables might fall across the screen to whether your hands could block the microphones when you want to use Skype.

Asus also explained the lack of microSD card slot and rear camera: Asus "believes the main usage scenario for the device will be based around the cloud, using the wide range of popular cloud-based services to access their digital media" so there's no need for extra solid-state storage, while the camera didn't make the cut because they couldn't do a good one cheaply enough.

Mountain excitement

Over in Mac land, the big news is of course the release of Mountain Lion, the latest version of OS X. "The ninth major version of OS X adds more than 200 new features," Alan Stonebridge says, and it's cheap: just £13.99 via the Mac App Store.

"As with last year's Lion, some older Macs aren't invited to the party - for example, Core 2 Duo MacBook Pros aren't compatible - and some features, such as Power Nap, only work on recent MacBook Airs and the retina MacBook Pro.

Is it any cop? At £13.99, Stonebridge says, Mountain Lion is a bargain for Notification Center alone: "When you're swamped with meeting alerts and emails all day long, it's a convenient way to filter out some noise, while remaining in touch with people who matter."

It's not a massive upgrade to Lion, but there are enough new features and worthwhile improvements to make you feel that your fourteen quid is money well spent. It's not perfect - the lack of colour in the interface isn't ideal, and the iCloud file system "makes a long-winded job of doing things with different types of document" - but it's still a worthwhile update.

Our columnist Gary Marshall reckons that Mountain Lion is no big deal, and that in itself is a big deal. "I'd much rather have a cheap and relatively undramatic annual upgrade than a big blockbuster release every three or four years," he says. "I want my computer to work like my car does: quietly, efficiently, and without bursting into flames when I just want to go to work."

Did someone mention cars? Yes - us, and we've got a whole channel to do it in. Here's James Rivington to tell you about the coming revolution in car technology: "The next few years in car tech are going to be absolutely manic," he says, pointing out the growing complexity of in-car systems and manufacturers' embrace of smartphones and tablets.

We know what you're thinking ."If only there was an easy way to stay up to date with such developments!" Well, there is: our brand new Car Tech channel, which can tell you everything from which sat-nav system to buy to what the transport of the far future will look like. Pardon the pun, but our new car channel is wheely, wheely good.

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