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How Prices Compare on Different App Stores – GigaOM December 30, 2009

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With an increasing number of companies launching mobile app stores, we [GigaOM] decided it was time to compare them. We wanted to find out the average cost of a paid application on various stores.

We asked our friends at Mobclix, a Palo Alto, Calif.-based startup that offers mobile analytics and runs a mobile ad exchange, if they could help. They crunched some numbers and came back with some surprising findings. For example: BlackBerry paid apps are among the most expensive, followed by Microsoft, Android and the iPhone OS platform. Nokia Ovi paid apps were among the cheapest.

via How Prices Compare on Different App Stores – GigaOM.


Google Might Get Into Hosted Gaming Via YouTube December 30, 2009

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YouTube is the world’s online video portal, but if a recent patent application filed by Google is any indication, it may be looking to become an interactive gaming portal as well.

The patent, “Web-based System for Generation of Interactive Games Based on Digital Videos,” was filed by Google earlier this year but published this month. Uncovered by BNET, the Google patent seems to detail a system where the creation of video annotations can be used for gaming-like mechanics and video behavior change.

The following is the full abstract from the patent application:

“Systems and methods are provided for adding and displaying interactive annotations for existing online hosted videos. A graphical annotation interface allows the creation of annotations and association of the annotations with a video. Annotations may be of different types and have different functionality, such as altering the appearance and/or behavior of an existing video, e.g. by supplementing it with text, allowing linking to other videos or web pages, or pausing playback of the video. Authentication of a user desiring to perform annotation of a video may be performed in various manners, such as by checking a uniform resource locator (URL) against an existing list, checking a user identifier against an access list, and the like. As a result of authentication, a user is accorded the appropriate annotation abilities, such as full annotation, no annotation, or annotation restricted to a particular temporal or spatial portion of the video.”

While there are already annotations within YouTube videos, they don’t have this type of functionality. With the behavior described in this patent, you could create a game that jumps from video to video based on your responses or one that pauses the video and requires you to answer a question before resuming playback. It also has potential applications in advertising mechanics.

It’s tough to tell just from the patent what Google intends to do with this technology, but the fact that the patent focuses on interactive games gives us our best clue. YouTube-based gaming may be in our not-so-distant future.

via Is YouTube About to Jump into Online Gaming?

Droid clobbers other Android phones in Xmas app downloads December 29, 2009

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Droid-v-Others-Downloads1On Christmas Day, the number of Android app downloads from the new Droid phones roughly equaled the number of downloads from all leading Android phones combined, according to the latest report from app market analysts Flurry.

T-Mobile’s myTouch 3G and G1, and the HTC Hero sold by Sprint, totaled roughly as many apps as those downloaded the Verizon/Motorola Droid phones on December 25.

Is this the new landscape, or was it just a one-day fluke? Flurry’s head of marketing, Peter Farago, emailed in response: “In our estimation, Droid numbers will continue to drive a larger share of downloads for the foreseable future until another Android handset can displace its position as the fastest-selling Android phone. Also, we have to remember that this is the most marketed Android phone to date, and on Verizon, which has 70 million subscribers.”

Still, Apple’s App Store continues to dominate the app market. iPhone and iPod Touch users downloads thirteen times as many apps in December as all Android phone users combined, Flurry says. And Apple’s December download volume will be 51 percent higher than November’s, if Flurry’s calculations are correct. By contrast, Android Market downloads only increased 22 percent from November to December.

So while the Droid is the hotter phone right now in terms of buzz, the numbers point to Apple’s continuing dominance of the app world going into 2010.

via Droid clobbers other Android phones in Xmas app downloads | VentureBeat

Songbird Takes On iTunes With Improved Device Syncing December 29, 2009

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Music fans looking looking for an alternative to the iTunes/iPod ecosystem are getting a new option this week with the release of Songbird 1.4, which introduces support for CD ripping and syncing Mass Storage Class (MSC) Devices. The first feature is fairly self explanatory (and frankly I can’t believe it took this long to include), but it’s the latter that’s the most compelling: Songbird now features improved sync for a number of popular MSC devices, including the HTC Hero, Motorola Droid, Nokia N900, and the Palm Pre. The new features are available on Windows only for now, with Mac support planned for release early next year.

To be clear, Songbird has actually offered some MSC support before now, but CEO Jerrell Jimerson says that oftentimes devices don’t work as well as they should using generic support. Songbird has been working with manufacturers to try to make the syncing process as seamless as possible. They’ve inked a deal with Nokia, and are also engaged in less formal partnerships with a number of other manufacturers. […]

Jimerson says that Songbird’s core functionality, which serves as a media player for both content saved locally to your computer and music that’s streamed from the web, remains fully intact. But the company is also looking to make the product more appealing to a broader userbase. And that includes forming more partnerships.

We’ve previously heard that Songbird has a deal with Phillips to install the software in 5 million music players, which would be a big win for the company. Jimerson wouldn’t comment on that, but it seems like it would fit with Songbird’s new strategy.

Songbird’s increasing support for media sync makes it a more direct competitor to DoubleTwist, another powerful iTunes alternative that supports many devices and that also has a brilliant marketing team.

via Songbird Still Airborne, Takes On iTunes With Improved Device Syncing.

Twitter Acquires Geolocation Service Mixer Labs: Plans to Enhance Its Geotagging API December 25, 2009

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geoapi_logo_dec09.jpgTwitter just announced that it has acquired Mixer Labs, the company behind GeoAPI.com. GeoAPI is a service that allows developers to easily add geolocation data to their apps. Twitter just launched its own geotagging API a few weeks ago. Even though a number of mobile and desktop Twitter apps like Seesmic Web and Birdfeed support Twitter’s geotagging API, only a very small number of users are currently making use of this feature.

According to Twitter founder Ev Williams, the company “will be looking at how to integrate the work Mixer Labs has done with the Twitter API in useful ways that give developers behind geo-enabled apps like Birdfeed, Seesmic Web, Foursquare, Gowalla, Twidroid, Twittelator Pro and other powerful new possibilities.”

geo_api.jpgIt’s important to note that the Mixer Labs GeoAPI is not tied to Twitter. GeoAPI offers tools like a reverse geocoder that can take GPS coordinates and turn them into human readable information and a service that can find media files and status updates related to a specific place on Flickr, Twitter or YouTube. Mixer Labs also offers an iPhone SDK. Judging from Twitter’s announcement, the GeoAPI will continue to work while Twitter figures out how to best integrate its current geotagging API with Mixer Labs’ GeoAPI.

via Twitter Acquires Geolocation Service Mixer Labs: Plans to Enhance Its Geotagging API.

Will the Mobile Web Kill Off the App Store? | Gadget Lab | Wired.com December 19, 2009

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The debate over the longevity of native software continues. Mozilla, creator of Firefox, claims that its new browser for smartphones will contribute to the death of smartphone app stores.

Scheduled to begin appearing on devices at the end of this year, the Firefox mobile browser, code-named Fennec, will be packed with features to make it the closest thing yet to a real, desktop-class browser. (Wired.com’s Mike Calore has a detailed look at Fennec.) Mozilla claims it will have the fastest JavaScript engine of any mobile browser, allowing developers to produce HTML- and JavaScript-coded apps for Fennec rather than for multiple smartphone platforms, such as iPhone OS, Google Android or Windows Mobile.

“In the interim period, apps will be very successful,” said Jay Sullivan, vice president of Mozilla’s mobile division, in an interview with PC Pro. “Over time, the web will win because it always does.”

Web proponents such as Mozilla and Google dream that internet standards will enable any app to run on any device, just as Java proponents touted a “write once, run anywhere” vision in the 1990s. Similarly, Adobe’s Flash emerged as a cross-platform environment for creating animations, games and apps for the web. But many consumers and developers have complained that Java and Flash exhibit bugs, performance problems and security vulnerabilities, among other issues. And Java’s promises of universality didn’t quite work out, because different implementations of the Java virtual machine (not to mention wildly varying hardware capabilities) mean that, even today, Java coders need to rework their apps for each target device.

But web proponents maintain that the wide acceptance of next-generation internet standards, particularly HTML5, will win out where Java failed.

It’s a tempting vision. Currently, when deciding whether to buy a Mac or a PC, an Xbox 360 or a PlayStation 3, or an iPhone or a Droid, you need to consider which applications you’ll be able to run on each one. If programmers head in the direction of the web, then ideally you’ll be able to gain access to any application regardless of the computer or smartphone you own.

Google is attempting to lead the web movement. The search giant is pushing its web-only regime with Chrome OS, its browser-based operating system for netbooks that will run only web applications. Also, in July, Google’s engineering vice president and developer evangelist Vic Gundotra said in a conference that mobile app stores have no future.

“Many, many applications can be delivered through the browser and what that does for our costs is stunning,” Gundotra was quoted in a Financial Times report. “We believe the web has won and over the next several years, the browser, for economic reasons almost, will become the platform that matters and certainly that’s where Google is investing.”

But iPhone developers and analysts polled in July by Wired.com explained the problems with current web technologies, and some highlighted the merits of native-app architecture.

Interpet analyst Michael Gartenberg noted that many iPhone apps are a combination of native and web technologies, because many apps download or share data through the internet. He said it’s beneficial for the apps to be native, because they’re programmed to take full advantage of the iPhone’s hardware.

“It’s odd that Google feels the need to position as one versus the other,” Gartenberg said in July. “That’s last century thinking…. It’s not about web applications or desktop applications but integrating the cloud into these applications that are on both my phone and the PC. Ultimately, it’s about offering the best of both worlds to create the best experience for consumers — not forcing them to choose one or the other.”

With Firefox’s mobile browser rolling out soon, we have yet to see how consumers and developers react to Mozilla’s attempt to spark a web-only exodus.

via Will the Mobile Web Kill Off the App Store? | Gadget Lab | Wired.com.

Say Hello to the Google Tablet December 19, 2009

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There’s a hot web tablet coming next year, perhaps you’ve heard rumors about it? The tablet will be a simple slate that is designed to do one thing well, surf the web. It will be thin and light, and the 10-inch screen will sit in a package that is a no-frills design. It will be a simple slate device, comfortable to use in the hands for hours of tapping into the Internet.

The tablet will not run a “full” OS, that would be overkill. It will be designed from the ground up to work with the web. It will not be expected to replace full compute functionality for everyone, it will just do the web. It will do the web flawlessly, however, as that will be the entire purpose of this web tablet. It will leverage all web technology well, from Flash to HTML5, and that will open up a magical web experience. This tablet will not be coming from Apple as you might have thought, it will be coming from Google.

This new device will not run Intel processors, that would be overkill. It will rather be based on ARM technology, as that will provide all of the oomph needed to run the web stuff. It will have Wi-Fi and integrated 3G, as that will allow it to stay connected to the web all the time, using the fastest pipe available. It will be connected to the Google cloud, and the guts of the tablet, which are basically the same as that in smartphones, will mean it will be getting email and other pushed information even when sitting to the side.

The connection is important, as a good web tablet is a cloud computer through and through. All data will reside in the cloud, all apps will be web apps. Local storage will be kept at a minimum as it won’t be needed. The interface will be designed around working with the web, and it will be optimized for touch. It will not be a smartphone interface blown up to fit the bigger screen, it will be designed from the ground up to fit the display.

The slate will provide a great window into all of the major social networks that are popular. It will be able to visit any web site and deliver a great browsing experience. The philosophy behind the design will center around the understanding that most of the user’s needs for the tablet will center around the web, and it will do that as well as any computer can.

If this sounds like the Google Chrome OS that is coming next year, then you catch on quickly. Google is going to set the mobile world on fire next year with the introduction of Chrome, and a tablet is the perfect vehicle to showcase its strengths. I believe the smart folks at Google will single-handedly bring credibility to the smartbook genre, as Chrome netbooks will be smartbooks by their very design. They won’t be called smartbooks, they will simply be Google Computers. Google won’t be content to stay with the notebook form factor, as it is a simple jump to a tablet form.

A slate makes sense on so many levels that I believe Google is already thinking about one. The constant buzz about an Apple tablet, and with the strange situation surrounding the CrunchPad/ JooJoo, demonstrates the interest in a web tablet. Google already has everything in place to produce one based on the Chrome OS, and produce one better than anyone else. Such a Google ChromePad would be aimed at distributing through phone carriers with data plans, and could be produced cheaply enough to make them virtually free with typical subsidies.

The Google Tablet would be sold in major retail outlets, in addition to carrier distribution. Imagine how many tablets would be moved in a very short time if consumers could walk in Walmart and pick one up for free, or nearly free, and be online in just a few minutes. It won’t take long for most people to realize that most everything they do outside the work environment is now centered around the web, making a Google Tablet the most useful thing they own.

We may see a tablet from Apple, if the constant rumors pan out. But an Apple tablet will be expensive, making it a niche product. Google can make deals with anyone they want to build their tablet, and cheaper is better than expensive. The Chrome OS core will straddle the smartphone/ computer fence, providing a richer user experience than an iPhone OS tablet from Apple. Google has everything in place to do this, and do it right. I think they’ll take advantage of that situation.

via Say Hello to the Google Tablet.

// More info why Google should make a tablet to be found here at gizmodo

Hulu to stream reality show internationally, incessantly — Engadget December 18, 2009

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See this forlorn-looking male model? He’s got a lot on his mind. Really, he’s just like the rest of us — a starry-eyed dreamer who’s headed to Hollywood in search of fame and fortune. To this end, he’s shacked up with four fellow photogenic wannabes in a Hollywood crash pad where they’ll be webcast 24-7 for Simon Fuller’s new Internet-only talent show, If I Can Dream. In addition to weekly episodes broadcast on Hulu, voyeurs viewers will be able to watch the action in the house live, as it goes down. You see, Hulu (who’s not had much luck getting a foothold outside of the states) will be streaming the thing to select international markets in an attempt to spread their brand and influence worldwide. Will it work? Who knows? Besides, Jersey Shore is more our speed. PR, video after the break.

via Hulu to stream reality show internationally, incessantly — Engadget.

iPhone developers abandoning app model for HTML5? December 16, 2009

Posted by hruf in Mobile & Gadgets, Programming.
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Lots of iPhone application developers are frustrated with the process to get new apps into your hands. It takes about three weeks lately for an app to get approved and into the iTunes store.

Lately I’ve noticed that some developers are avoiding building apps and, instead, are building custom web pages that are designed specifically for the iPhone. I’m not the only one, Marshall Kirkpatrick, over at ReadWriteWeb is seeing the same trend and yesterday featured several services that are building iPhone web experiences but not apps.

Examples you might be already using are Twitter’s mobile site, or Techmeme’s mobile site.

But yesterday another one came along from Nextstop, which is a cool new app for sharing cool things to do near you (great for travelers to check out) and they, too, decided on HTML5 instead of doing an iPhone app. So, I visited them in their San Francisco offices and learned why they made the choices they did, got a demo of the new mobile site they built using HTML5, and also talked about what their view of what’s happening in the larger mobile industry is.

Some reasons Nextstop likes HTML5:

1. Rapid iteration. If they code a new feature tonight, you get it tonight. No waiting three weeks for you to get their latest.
2. It prepares their systems for building a native app. Why? Because apps can include a Safari browser instance inside, so all of this work is reusable, even if they do a native app.
3. It’s easier to build and debug because you don’t need to do a lot of specialized coding to make the native app work properly.
4. It fits into the greater web easier for users. In an iPhone app it can be jarring to take users out to a web browser, but if they already are in the browser they are used to going to other pages and back again using Safari’s navigation.

Anyway, if you want to learn more about the latest thinking of iPhone app developers, this is a good video to watch.

via iPhone developers abandoning app model for HTML5?.

A Google Phone could be the death of Android — Engadget December 16, 2009

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Without a doubt, the big buzz since the weekend has been over the “Google Phone,” an HTC-built device called the Nexus One handed out to Google employees last week in what Google describes as a “mobile lab.” Confirmed to be running Android 2.1, the Nexus One has once again raised the idea of Google selling unlocked devices directly to consumers. (Google has been selling unlocked HTC Android phones for some time, but only to developers.)

It would be a strange turnabout if Mountain View made this move, directly going in the face of previous assurances that Google had no plans to compete directly with Android hardware manufacturers. What’s more, there are a lot of unanswered questions here.

The first question: How would Google bring an unlocked phone to market? There are really only three ways to sell phones. The first is to license spectrum from a carrier and become a mobile virtual network operator or MVNO — a business model that time has proven to be a failure. The second, of course, is to partner with carriers and offer phones at discounted prices through carrier subsidies, which is more or less the case with every successful device on the US market today. The final model is to sell unlocked devices at full retail price that can be used by consumers on the network of the their choice. This is allegedly the model Google will be using to sell the Nexus One.

Selling unlocked devices sans carrier is a lousy business model in the States, however. There’s no mass market for unlocked phones in the US — just ask Nokia how hard it is to sell a high end phone with no carrier subsidy or support. Either Google would need to take a huge loss on every device to achieve a consumer-friendly price point, or hope to convince consumers to pay full price for an unsubsidized device — even though Eric Schmidt in the past has argued phone prices need to trend to zero through full subsidies. What’s more, an unlocked device will at least get you onto T-Mobile and AT&T’s EDGE networks, but Verizon and Sprint both require phones that are approved for network use and can easily be locked out.

There’s something even more fundamental that struck me as I listened to the “Google Phone” chatter, and that’s the basic challenge of licensing to competitors. One reason Microsoft is successful in the PC industry is that it’s never built PCs. Licensing to folks you compete with doesn’t work: either your licensees do better than you do, in which case why bother, or you do better than your licensees, in which case your licensees wise up and go elsewhere. Apple’s tried this twice: first with the Newton, where Apple did better than the licensees, and second with Classic Mac OS, where licensees like Power Computing did better than Apple — eventually driving Cupertino to give up on the licensing idea entirely. Palm tried it, and it eventually had to split up into Palm and Palm Source. Nokia tried it with S60. The whole point of the Open Handset Alliance is to create a partner ecosystem of handsets and other devices, and a “Google Phone” that undercuts both carriers and licenses might well be the death of Android in the marketplace.

There might be a strategy here that allows for this to happen — I can even think of one or two — but until someone can give me a ten-word answer to how Mountain View can manage to build an ecosystem while trying to compete with it, I will remain skeptical that the Google Phone ever comes to market.

via Entelligence: A Google Phone could be the death of Android — Engadget.