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PayPal to Introduce Cheaper Way to Process Small Transactions – BusinessWeek March 17, 2010

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March 15 (Bloomberg) — PayPal Inc., the payment processor owned by EBay Inc., plans to introduce a cheaper way for businesses to handle online transactions that are less than $10, a company executive said.

PayPal will let companies accumulate so-called micropayments until a certain volume is reached, at which point PayPal will charge merchants a single processing fee, Francesco Rovetta, director of the San Jose, California-based company’s mobile unit, said in an interview. The new plan will be rolled out later this year, he said.[…]

PayPal’s standard fee for processing a transaction is about 3 percent of the transaction plus a flat rate of 30 cents. For purchases less than $10, it charges 5 percent plus 5 cents.

That means when a consumer buys a 99-cent song online, the merchant would pay PayPal about 10 cents, or 10 percent of the transaction. Under the aggregation model, PayPal wouldn’t charge the merchant until consumers bought, say, 10 or 20 songs, thereby reducing the percentage of the transaction the merchant is charged.

$30 Billion Market

The company is still working out details on how many goods must be purchased before it charges the merchant and how long it will give the merchant to aggregate purchases before a fee is levied, Rovetta said.[…]

via PayPal to Introduce Cheaper Way to Process Small Transactions – BusinessWeek.

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Lenovo: mobile Internet to be 80% of sales in five years | Electronista March 13, 2010

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The vast majority of Lenovo’s sales will come from Internet-capable portable devices in five years, company chief Yang Yuanqing stated on Friday. He observed that ThinkPads and IdeaPads already outweigh desktops but that fully 70 to 80 percent of Lenovo’s devices will be mobile Internet devices of some kind within as little as three and no more than five years. Many of these will be smartphones, but they should also include crossover devices such as the IdeaPad U1 notebook/tablet hybrid and the Skylight smartbook.

Most of its strategy for 2010 will involve pushing into relatively underserved areas for the company, such as middle Asia, Latin America and Eastern Europe. Its longer-term “protect and attack” strategy would focus on solidifying performance in China before shifting attention to other markets.

The approach puts it into more direct competition with both established notebook rivals like Acer and HP but also firms whose lineups have only partially overlapped with Lenovo’s in recent years, such as Apple and HTC. Lenovo has just recently entered touchscreen smartphones in earnest with the Ophone O1 and the upcoming LePhone, and devices like the U1 are likely to clash with the iPad as well as existing and widely rumored UMPC and tablet models from HTC.

via Lenovo: mobile Internet to be 80% of sales in five years | Electronista.

Amazon.com’s 1-Click patent confirmed following re-exam March 11, 2010

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The U.S. Patent and Trademark Office is confirming Amazon.com’s controversial 1-Click patent following a re-examination that lasted more than four years.

Amazon’s 1-Click has come under a lot of fire over the years from critics who question whether such a broad technology should be patented at all. It refers to the process by which online shoppers make purchases with a single click, having previously entered their payment and shipping information.

The re-examination of Amazon’s 1-Click patent was triggered back in 2006 when a New Zealand actor raised questions about it. At one point in the re-examination process, the U.S. Patent Office rejected many of Amazon’s claims in the patent.

But according to a “notice of intent to issue a reexamination certificate” dated March 2 (pdf, 8 pages), the patent office is now satisfied with amendments that Amazon made back in 2007 that base many of the patent’s claims on a “shopping cart model.”

“The modified patent is still quite broad — especially since the leading retail ecommerce model still uses shopping carts,” said Dennis Crouch, an assistant professor at the University of Missouri Law School and editor of the patent law blog Patently-O.

Crouch said the 1-Click patent, after Amazon’s amendments, is “a slightly narrower version but essentially the same version.” He added: “This case may be a public relations boon for supporters of patent reform that have been calling for an overhaul of the reexamination system.”

The 1-Click patent, which lists Amazon founder and CEO Jeff Bezos as one of its inventors, was filed in 1997 and refers to a “Method and system for placing a purchase order via a communications network.” Amazon in the past has used 1-Click to sue rival bookseller Barnes & Noble and licensed the technology to Apple.

The patent is scheduled to expire in 2017.

The U.S. Supreme Court is expected to rule in April on the Bilski case, which some believe could have implications for 1-Click.

The case revolves around two men who seek to patent a way of hedging risk in commodities trading. The Supreme Court could use the case to weigh in on “business method patents” — a category that includes 1-Click — that patent ways of doing business rather than specific inventions.

via Amazon.com’s 1-Click patent confirmed following re-exam.

AppleInsider | Flash, HTML5 comparison finds neither has performance advantage March 11, 2010

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A comparison of streaming video via the Adobe Flash and HTML5 formats with numerous different browsers on both Mac and Windows produced wildly different results based on the operating system and browser, making neither a clear winner.

The test, from Streaming Learning Center, was conducted in response to recent comments alleged to have been said by Apple co-founder Steve Jobs, in which he reportedly called Flash a “CPU hog.” While the test found that HTML5 is significantly more efficient than Flash on the Mac when running the Safari Web browser, those same advantages do not exist on other Mac browsers, or in Windows.

“It’s inaccurate to conclude that Flash is inherently inefficient,” author Jan Ozer wrote. “Rather, Flash is efficient on platforms where it can access hardware acceleration and less efficient where it can’t. With Flash Player 10.1, Flash has the opportunity for a true leap in video playback performance on all platforms that enable hardware acceleration.”

The report noted that Apple has not enabled the hooks to allow GPU-based acceleration for H.264 video decoding. Anand Lai Shimpi, founder of AnandTech, asserted “it’s up to Apple to expose the appropriate hooks to allow Adobe to (eventually) enable that functionality.”

Adobe’s update to Flash 10.1 on the Mac improved CPU efficiency within Safari by 5 percent, but the Web format still trails far behind HTML5 due to hardware acceleration. With Google Chrome, neither were particularly efficient, and Firefox saw slightly better performance than Chrome.

Flash test 1

On Windows, Apple’s Safari browser doesn’t play HTML 5 content. But the Google Chrome browser in Windows played Flash 10.1 content with 58 percent more efficiency than HTML5.

HTML5 is not natively supported in Firefox or Internet Explorer, but the update from Flash 10 to Flash 10.1 improved CPU performance for the browsers by 73 percent and 35 percent, respectively. Flash 10.1 in Windows offers added hardware acceleration.

“When it comes to efficient video playback, the ability to access hardware acceleration is the single most important factor in the overall CPU load,” Streaming Learning Center noted. “On Windows, where Flash can access hardware acceleration, the CPU requirements drop to negligible levels.

“It seems reasonable to assume that if the Flash Player could access GPU-based hardware acceleration on the Mac (or iPod/iPhone/iPad), the difference between the CPU required for HTML5 playback and Flash playback would be very much narrowed, if not eliminated.”

Flash test 2

Google added support for the most popular video destination on the Internet, YouTube, in January. The beta opt-in program is available only for browsers that support both HTML5 and H.264 video encoding.

Scrutiny over Flash has grown in recent months since Apple introduced its multimedia iPad device, which does not support the Web format from Adobe. Apple, instead, has placed its support behind HTML5.

For more on why Apple isn’t likely to add support for Flash in the iPhone OS, read AppleInsider’s three-part Flash Wars series.

via AppleInsider | Flash, HTML5 comparison finds neither has performance advantage.

Web Strategy Matrix: Google Buzz vs Facebook vs MySpace vs Twitter (Feb 2010) « Web Strategy by Jeremiah Owyang | Social Media, Web Marketing February 28, 2010

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Lack Of Signal In A Sea of Noise
There’s an incredible amount of media and blogger noise about social networks, yet most focus on “killer app” hype without an objective point of view.   My career mission?  To cut out the hype and help companies make sense of what to do. For those fraught with information overload, this definitive matrix distills what matters.

Situation:  New Contender Shakes Up Industry
Google has entered the social networking play with “Buzz”, and by the look of it, this time it’s for real.  There’s a lot of market confusion on how they could stack up, so here’s my take.  Let’s cut the noise and get to the heart of it with a comparison matrix based upon my insights talking to these companies in formal briefings, observations, as a user, my former research and dealing with the brands trying to reach them.

Executive Summary:  Brands Must Stay Focused On Where Customers Already Are
Google’s entrance causes media havoc but web strategists should stay focused.  Find out where customers already are through developing data around consumer behavior called socialgraphics.  Facebook continues to demonstrate a sophisticated marketplace for consumers and brands to mix about, however don’t discount MySpace’s active consumer base –but only if your customers are already there.  Continue to monitor Twitter and respond if customers are tweeting –but they’ve yet to indicate sophistication to help marketers, instead rely on third party tools and agencies to respond.  The feature set of newly spawned Google Buzz isn’t important, what matters is their ability to aggregate social content which will impact search strategy for businesses trying to reach consumers, read my first take analysis.

This scorecard has a limited shelf life, so I’ll likely create a new scorecard after future announcements from these players.

Web Strategy Matrix: Google Buzz vs Facebook vs MySpace vs Twitter (Feb 2010)

Google Buzz Facebook MySpace Twitter
One-Liner A dark horse that has big backing and access to existing platforms. A mainstay platform that needs to grow out of its shell. The MTV of this generation is at risk during an ugly transformation. Has opportunity to become utility-like infrastructure, but not a destination.
Vitals (see more stats) Estimated to sit on a user based of over 100mm active gmail users, they have access to the most popular webpage in the world, google.com.  Has access to mainstream users on Google.com and advanced email users on Gmail. Boasting over 400mm users in just a few short years, they’ve saturated Gen Y in US, and show global expansion at record rates. Recently reported at 57mm US unique users most of which are heavily engaged with site.  Has saturation of coveted youth, working class and small businesses within US. Although difficult to track, estimates indicate 75mm active users, but doubts are emerging about reduced rate of growth.  Usage by tech savvy, media, and celebs.
Strengths A large talent pool of engineers to pull from, Buzz stands on top of existing Gmail, mobile devices, and dominant search portal.  As Buzz grows, they can integrate with all Google apps –and aggregate the entire internet. Rapid US and international growth over last few years bodes well as quickly evolved feature set of platform and and FB Connect gain traction.  Attracts top talent from Google –which are quickly defecting. Big backing by a media giant, a super engaged audience, and rich history of reaching media starved young consumers. Has clinched adoption over media elite, celebrities, and tech influencers. Incredible media buzz, and easy-to-use features.
Weaknesses Late to the party, Google has had a series of social networking misfires from Wave, Dodgeball, Orkut their culture shows signs of becoming corporate –like Microsoft. Struggles with the conundrum of having promised users a ‘closed’ experience where to be successful requires them to be ‘open’. Historically poor track record in meeting privacy expectations of customers, and overall complex interface. Complacent: they really let themselves go. In the eyes of the tech world, they are becoming irrelevant or even worse, a niched media play –not even a lifestyle network.  This leaderless ship without a captain is undergoing radical internal turmoil and innovation has stalled. Although features are dead simple, they are now a commodity –status update features are ubiquitous. Mainstream users confused by how to get started. Overhyped, the infrastructure has shown strain.  Brands generally confused on how to interact.
Opportunity The more information users share, tag, or create, the more data is created on Google’s platform to organize, giving them opportunity to monetize. By integrating Facebook Connect everywhere, the service becomes ubiquitous, and therefore the default identity and default address book for consumer behavior. A few hours ago, the CEO Van Natta was let go. Now a new chief can step up, and lead the recently formed executive team, fostering innovation and solidarity. Must develop more features to increase the overall value of this utility of the this simple status messaging tool.
Threats Mainstay email companies like Microsoft, Yahoo, and AOL have already shown social features ‘bolted’ onto their email systems, and could pose threat, although success hasn’t been proven by any. Secondly, Facebook has made notions to develop an email web client “Project Titan” that will threaten tech savvy users competing for Gmail’s attention. Facebook is a conundrum as they must make experience open –yet this provides Google the opportunity to monetize as an intermediary. Social networks come and go, before MySpace was Friendster, they run the risk of becoming complacent, losing talent to Twitter and failing to innovate over the next few years. Self-implosion from internal instability causes stalls, forcing media brands to develop their own social networking on their own sites, rendering MySpace a duplicate. Worse yet? Cool kids jump ship, and establish a colony elsewhere, leaving MySpace a wasteland of clueless advertisers. Overhype from media leaves Twitter at risk for burn-out-syndrome like a Hollywood child star turned skid row.  Secondly, the more successful they are, the more strain it put on the already questionable infrastructure.
Marketing Platform Although not fully developed, expect advertising options to appear for brands who want to promote relevant ads wherever Buzz is located, especially on SERP pages Confusing and overly complicated, there are too many marketing options perplexing brands.  It’s not clear if brands should advertise, interact in pages, create widgets or do a combination of all. Strong and straight forward. Established team has cut deals with many media companies and has legacy culture of understanding media. Nascent. Although promises have been made for branded experiences, analytics, and other premium features, for most marketers it’s being treated like a chat room –not a marketing platform.
Future State Buzz will aggregate the voices of their users –and those of other social networks, aggregate and serve up monetization options. A communications platform for consumers and brands.  Expect Facebook experience to be in many public experiences and mobile devices. There are two paths: Integrate MySpace into TV and mobile devices or fade into pit of irrelevance like Friendster. Like gas, water, or power, Twitter is likely to fade into the background and become a utility that’s integrated into everything –someday, even your fridge will Tweet.
What They Don’t Want You To Know The collective already owns you –you just don’t know it yet. They’re trying so hard to shift from closed to open, and like a nasty divorce, it’s tearing them apart from users. Like an internal disease, the insiders are hurting, morale sunk, teams in disarray, yet they don’t want the public to know. Not sure what they want to be when they grow up.
What They Should Do Demonstrate success with Buzz, then quickly integrate into other tools like Search and Chrome. Kill off the confusing Wave, and consolidate teams and efforts.  Aggregate public content from Twitter and Facebook, intermediate them and monetize their own content. Get open now. Build a browser to quickly go transcend the web. Reward users to share more information in public like restaurant or media reviews in exchange for other values. Double down efforts on Project Titan email feature. Quickly establish a chain of command and execute based upon a single vision. Have regular talent turnover to avoid complacency. Develop a white label product that can compete with Cisco EOS, Kyte, Pluck, or Kickapps (Altimeter client). Develop a vision to become the dominant protocol over SMS, where teens and international cultures are already heavily texting. Continue to build out platform for developers to build on top of, becoming a data play, like a utility.

Everyone has a morning ritual, for me, I invest up to two hours reading, thinking, and blogging each morning. I hope this helps you cut through the noise –if it was helpful, please pass it on, email to colleagues, tweet it, and blog about it.

via Web Strategy Matrix: Google Buzz vs Facebook vs MySpace vs Twitter (Feb 2010) « Web Strategy by Jeremiah Owyang | Social Media, Web Marketing.

Half of Netflix ‘Watch Instantly’ Users Are Streaming to the TV February 28, 2010

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According to a newly published study from TDG – the nation’s leading new media research consultancy – almost two-thirds of Netflix users that subscribe to a home broadband service are now viewing the ‘Watch Instantly’ streaming video service. One-third of broadband-enabled Netflix subscribers view this streaming video exclusively only on their PCs, 8% view the content exclusively on their TVs, and 24% use both their PCs and TVs.

“Netflix is now the archetype for over-the-top (OTT) streaming video services,” notes Michael Greeson, TDG founding partner and director of research. “Not only has Netflix eclipsed its immediate competitors in terms of online DVD rental, but it has quickly become the ‘gold standard’ for new OTT streaming services.”

The implication of TDG’s research is significant: one-half of broadband-enabled ‘Watch Instantly’ users now view streaming video on their TVs, a phenomenon unimaginable just a few years ago. As Greeson points out, this speaks volumes about the maturation of streaming video technologies that, until recently, had delivered an inconsistent experience that left regular TV viewers wanting.

via Half of Netflix ‘Watch Instantly’ Users Are Streaming to the TV – Press Releases.

Gartner Highlights Key Predictions for IT Organizations and Users in 2010 and Beyond January 18, 2010

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Gartner, Inc. has highlighted the key predictions that herald long-term changes in approach for IT organizations and the people they serve for 2010 and beyond. Gartner’s top predictions for 2010 showcase the trends and events that will change the nature of business today and beyond.[…]

Gartner’s top predictions are intended to compel readers to action and to position themselves to take advantage of coming changes, not to be damaged by them. Gartner’s top predictions for 2010 and beyond include:

By 2012, 20 percent of businesses will own no IT assets. Several interrelated trends are driving the movement toward decreased IT hardware assets, such as virtualization, cloud-enabled services, and employees running personal desktops and notebook systems on corporate networks.

The need for computing hardware, either in a data center or on an employee’s desk, will not go away. However, if the ownership of hardware shifts to third parties, then there will be major shifts throughout every facet of the IT hardware industry. For example, enterprise IT budgets will either be shrunk or reallocated to more-strategic projects; enterprise IT staff will either be reduced or reskilled to meet new requirements, and/or hardware distribution will have to change radically to meet the requirements of the new IT hardware buying points.

By 2012, India-centric IT services companies will represent 20 percent of the leading cloud aggregators in the market (through cloud service offerings). Gartner is seeing India-centric IT services companies leveraging established market positions and levels of trust to explore nonlinear revenue growth models (which are not directly correlated to labor-based growth) and working on interesting research and development (R&D) efforts, especially in the area of cloud computing. The collective work from India-centric vendors represents an important segment of the market’s cloud aggregators, which will offer cloud-enabled outsourcing options (also known as cloud services).

By 2012, Facebook will become the hub for social network integration and Web socialization. Through Facebook Connect and other similar mechanisms, Facebook will support and take a leading role in developing the distributed, interoperable social Web. As Facebook continues to grow and outnumber other social networks, this interoperability will become critical to the success and survival of other social networks, communication channels and media sites.

Other social networks (including Twitter) will continue to develop, seeking further adoption and specializations with communication or content areas, but Facebook will represent a common denominator for all of them.

By 2014, most IT business cases will include carbon remediation costs. Today, server vitalization and desktop power management demonstrate substantial savings in energy costs, and those savings can help justify projects. Incorporating carbon costs into business cases provides a further measure of savings, and prepares the organization for increased scrutiny of its carbon impact.

Economic and political pressure to demonstrate responsibility for carbon dioxide emissions will force more businesses to quantify carbon costs in business cases. Vendors will have to provide carbon life cycle statistics for their products or face market share erosion. Incorporating carbon costs in business cases will only slightly accelerate replacement cycles. A reasonable estimate for the cost of carbon in typical IT operations is an incremental one or two percentage points of overall costs. Therefore, carbon accounting will more likely shift market share than market size.

In 2012, 60 percent of a new PC’s total life greenhouse gas emissions will have occurred before the user first turns the machine on. Progress toward reducing the power needed to build a PC has been slow. Over the course of its entire lifetime, a typical PC consumes 10 times its own weight in fossil fuels, but around 80 percent of a PC’s total energy usage still happens during production and transportation.

Greater awareness among buyers and those that influence buying, greater pressure from eco-labels, increasing cost pressures and social pressure have awoken the IT industry to the problem of greenhouse gas emissions. Requests for proposal (RFPs) now frequently look for environment-related criteria of both product and vendor. Environmental awareness and legislative tightening will increase recognition of production as well as usage-related carbon dioxide emissions. Technology providers should expect that they will be required to provide carbon dioxide emission data to a growing number of customers.

Internet marketing will be regulated by 2015, controlling more than $250 billion in Internet marketing spending worldwide. Despite international efforts to eliminate “spam,” marketing “clutter” is abundant in every marketing channel. Pressure for greater accountability means the backlash from annoyed consumers will eventually drive legislation to regulate Internet marketing. Companies that focus primarily on the Internet for marketing purposes could find themselves unable to market effectively to customers, putting themselves at a competitive disadvantage when new regulations take effect. Although experiencing high growth, vendors who focus solely on, and sell predominately to, Internet marketing solutions could find themselves faced with a declining market, as companies shift marketing funds to other channels to compensate.

By 2014, over 3 billion of the world’s adult population will be able to transact electronically via mobile or Internet technology. Emerging economies will see rapidly rising mobile and Internet adoption through 2014. At the same time, advances in mobile payment, commerce and banking are making it easier to electronically transact via mobile or PC Internet. Combining these two trends creates a situation in which a significant majority of the world’s adult population will be able to electronically transact by 2014.

Gartner research predicts that by 2014, there will be a 90% mobile penetration rate and 6.5 billion mobile connections. Penetration will not be uniform, as continents like Asia (excluding Japan) will see a 68% penetration and Africa will see a 56% mobile penetration. Although not every individual with a mobile phone or Internet access will transact electronically, each will have the ability to do so. Cash transactions will remain dominant in emerging markets by 2014, but the foundation for electronic transactions will be well under way for much of the adult world.

By 2015, context will be as influential to mobile consumer services and relationships as search engines are to the Web. Whereas search provides the “key” to organizing information and services for the Web, context will provide the “key” to delivering hyperpersonalized experiences across smartphones and any session or experience an end user has with information technology. Search centered on creating content that drew attention and could be analyzed. Context will center on observing patterns, particularly location, presence and social interactions. Furthermore, whereas search was based on a “pull” of information from the Web, context-enriched services will, in many cases, prepopulate or push information to users.

The most powerful position in the context business model will be a context provider. Web, device, social platforms, telecom service providers, enterprise software vendors and communication infrastructure vendors will compete to become significant context providers during the next three years. Any Web vendor that does not become a context provider risks handing over effective customer ownership to a context provider, which would impact the vendor’s mobile and classic Web businesses.

By 2013, mobile phones will overtake PCs as the most common Web access device worldwide. According to Gartner’s PC installed base forecast, the total number of PCs in use will reach 1.78 billion units in 2013. By 2013, the combined installed base of smartphones and browser-equipped enhanced phones will exceed 1.82 billion units and will be greater than the installed base for PCs thereafter.

Mobile Web users are typically prepared to make fewer clicks on a website than users accessing sites from a PC. Although a growing number of websites and Web-based applications offer support for small-form-factor mobile devices, many still do not. Websites not optimized for the smaller-screen formats will become a market barrier for their owners — much content and many sites will need to be reformatted/rebuilt.

Additional information is in the Gartner report “Gartner’s Top Predictions for IT Organizations and Users, 2010 and Beyond: A New Balance.” The report examines the impact these long-term changes will have in combination with the ongoing trend toward the democratization of IT capabilities. The report is available on Gartner’s website at http://www.gartner.com/resId=1268513.

[…]

via Gartner Highlights Key Predictions for IT Organizations and Users in 2010 and Beyond.

LiLi: Skype Wants to Make Your TV More Social January 6, 2010

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Skype will soon be available on your TV set, thanks to TVs from LG and Panasonic with an integrated Skype client that will be coming out later this year. While users will still have to purchase a separate video camera designed to work with the service (priced at around $100-$200), doing so will open up a whole new way for users to connect with friends and family from the comfort of their living room.

The plan to move video conferencing to the big screen makes sense, as anyone who’s ever used Skype for teleconferencing knows. While the ability to make free video calls is nice and convenient, speaking into a laptop or desktop web cam isn’t the greatest user experience, a fact that has been borne out in Skype’s own experience research.

As David Dinka, head of Skype’s experience research division, said in a video that accompanies the announcement, “For many people, if they want to make a video call, they want to speak to their friends and family from somewhere comfortable, and preferably on the big screen. Now, as we know, the TV is the center of many people’s homes, so Skype on the TV is the natural next step for us and our users.”

The move isn’t totally unexpected. Skype CEO Josh Silverman told Om last November that he saw “a future where Skype would be embedded in connected game consoles, televisions and video phones.” But the pace with which Skype, and services like it, are making their way onto broadband-connected TVs is pretty impressive.

It also points to the fact that TVs are no longer one-way content distribution devices, but two-way communication portals. We’ve long been saying that video wants to be social, but very few applications have harnessed a full feature set that will enable viewers to interact with each other while also viewing video content. This point was underlined in a NY Times article yesterday about cross-country friends that used Skype to talk about TV episodes while watching them.

Unfortunately, from that standpoint the upcoming Skype TV integration will have some limitations. Apparently the TVs don’t have enough processing power for users to video chat while also watching TV, according to the NY Times. So while Skype could make TV set a little more social, it won’t do anything to improve the actual experience of viewing television programming.

While not enabling “true social TV” (yet), the move by Skype could have severe consequences for the telecom industry, which has already seen voice revenues decline over the last several years. By cutting out the middle man and giving users a richer experience with which to interact with their friends and family, some could do away with landline voice services altogether.

via Skype Wants to Make Your TV More Social.

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

Posted by pannet in Mobile & Gadgets.
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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