Saturday, 21 September 2013



Google announced Android 3.1 earlier today at I/O. More surprising than the OS itself (which was expected, really) was that it was rolling out to Verizon Xooms today. Google failed to announce when it was hitting other devices beside Google TV, which will get it this summer, and the Galaxy Tab 10.1, which will get it in the next few weeks.

As announced, the UI is much the same. You can’t tell 3.0 from 3.1 visually. One of the only noticeable differences is that the widgets can be resized. Previously, widgets such as email and bookmarks had a preset size — now they can be stretched and morphed to better fit a user’s preferences. The home button also returns you to the previously selected homescreen rather than the main center one.



It seems many of 3.1′s changes are under the hood. The Xoom I’m using is noticeably faster. The app screen loads nearly instantly, as do many apps. I’m no longer looking at a black screen while switching between apps, either. But the Quadrant benchmarking app disagrees. My 3.0.1 Xoom scored 1824 while the 3.1 scored 1580. The easy answer is perhaps that Quadrant needs to be recompiled for 3.1.

3.1 also addressed many issues with the browser. It now supports HTML5 video, enhanced CSS 3D, as well as now being able to save pages for offline viewing. But I don’t really care about those features. All I care about is that it’s quicker, and pinch-to-zoom is as smooth as the iPad’s. Really, the browser is a star performer now.

Previously, 3.0 supported USB keyboards; USB mice are now supported as well and work in single button mode. Scroll wheels are apparently supported as well but I have no way of testing that as the Xoom does not feature a USB host.



Google Videos was also one of the big announcements at I/O 2011, and comes preinstalled with 3.1 — it’s just called Videos, of course. The interface is sparse, with a two row interface. Up top are your rentals, with thumbnails occupying the bottom. You don’t actually rent anything directly from the app — it’s actually more of a management app. The thumbnails direct you to the Android Market app. It’s from there you click to rent with most titles costing $3.99.

There are other small, honestly trivial changes in 3.1. The buttons now look a bit different and there are a few new baked-in wallpapers. It’s a bunch of small things that add up to a more pleasing experience. It actually feels more like a 3.0.x update than a whole new platform, but I’ll dig into the system and see if there is anything else new. Oh, and yeah, 3.1 still doesn’t bring microSD support to the Xoom.

Hands-On With Android 3.1 On The Motorola Xoom

Friday, 13 September 2013


WIMM smartwatch

Google has confirmed it acquired WIMM Labs last year, a company that previously made an Android-powered smartwatch before shuttering operations in 2012. At the time a message on its website said it had entered into an exclusive partnership without releasing further details, but it’s now clear that partner was Google, rather than Apple as some had initially speculated. Google’s WIMM Labs acquisition was reported earlier by Gigaom.

Google is rumoured to be developing a smartwatch of its own, with patents turning up earlier this year (filed in 2011), and a report by the FT that claimed Google’s Android team was in the process of developing such a device. Google has also hinted at Android powering a range of wearable devices in the past, when CEO Larry Page let slip during a quarterly earnings call this year that Glass runs on its smartphone and tablet OS, and that Android is “pretty transportable across devices”. Google has also long had bigger ambitions for Android than just pushing it onto phones and tablets, with TV set-top boxes, in-car tech, home automation and wearables all areas where it’s actively encouraging Android to spread.

WIMM Labs started out building Android-based platforms for wearable displays, akin to Google Glass, and then created the WIMM One in 2011: a smartwatch powered by Android 2.1 that was aimed at developers as a sort of concept flagship ahead of a broader consumer launch. The WIMM One used Bluetooth and Wi-Fi 802.11b/g for connectivity, had 256 MB of RAM plus a 667MHz processor, and used a screen design that refreshed once per minute to conserve battery life. It also supported apps via a “Micro App Store” — installed and managed by users via a web-based dashboard. Android developers were offered custom APIs for adapting their software to the WIMM One’s tiny, 16-bit colour screen.

Google is not commenting further on the acquisition at this point, beyond providing confirmation that it picked up WIMM Labs in 2012. If Mountain View is building its own smartwatch it’s unlikely to beat its Android OEM partner Samsung to a launch, as the Korean company’s Galaxy Gear device is probably going to be unboxed next week in Berlin at a September 4 event. Plenty of other Android-powered smartwatches are also entering the frame via crowdfunding sites like Kickstarter, and also cropping up on the roadmaps of other Android OEMs. Meanwhile Apple’s rumoured iWatch remains elusive.

If Google isn’t building its own smartwatch hardware, acquiring WIMM Labs could be a way to help it develop a custom version of Android designed for wrist-mounted wearables, which it could then provide to OEMs the same way it currently does with Android proper. Given the amount of interest in smartwatches from OEMs big and small, that could be the better strategy for long-term platform growth.

Google Confirms It Has Acquired Android Smartwatch Maker WIMM Labs.

Thursday, 12 September 2013



Facebook didn’t stop when it hit 1 billion users. And it won’t stop even if it connects everyone with web access. ”To make the world more open and connected” really means the world — every human regardless of location or income. That’s why CEO Mark Zuckerberg says he’s “retooling the company to take on a lot of harder problems” — specifically spreading the Internet itself.

Last month, Zuckerberg launched Internet.org with a 10-page whitepaper he wrote himself. It’s a web access initiative and partnership with six telecommunications and mobile companies. Together, they’ll build new data-compression technologies, network infrastructure, and business models that make it possible to not only get everyone a smartphone, but make the data that powers them affordable. This is critical because most of the cost of owning a smartphone is the data, not the hardware.




Some will say it’s simply Facebook’s plot to get more users, but at its core, the mission is truly altruistic. Internet access leads to education, empowerment, and economic mobility. Everywhere it’s come it’s increased GDP and helped people stay in closer touch with those they love. Could it earn money for Facebook? Sure. But that doesn’t make it the driving motive.

Though Zuckerberg is championing the cause, it won’t just be some hobby of his. It’s Facebook’s new mandate. But really, it’s an extension of what the social network been doing since 2004.
“The tactics change all the time”,  but not the mission, Mark Zuckerberg said on stage. You can watch the full interview below.

The still-young CEO discussed how businesses break down into two categories. “There are companies that define themselves by the way they do things, and companies that define themselves by a concrete way they change the world.” The latter is preferable to him. It’s why Zuckerberg grew up idolizing Bill Gates and his mission to put “a computer on every desk and in every home.”

Creating a mission that matters requires doing something audacious, and the values that get you there aren’t always universally popular. “I’m of the belief that values are only useful if they’re controversial,” said Zuckerberg. He chided companies for posting hollow lists of values like “be honest,” saying of course you have to be honest.

Facebook’s controversial value has been “Move Fast And Break Things.” Employees are encouraged to build, experiment, and iterate rather than sit on new products until they’re perfect. Zuckerberg laughed. “It gets us into tons of trouble,” and he admits it’s still important to “slow down and fix your shit.” But the philosophy has helped Facebook evolve quickly and avoid being disrupted
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Zuckerberg Connect The World

It’s also led Facebook to 1 billion active users. But Zuckerberg says “A billion isn’t a magical number. No one wakes up and says ‘I want to get one-seventh of the world to do something.’”

Yet in a moment of humility, when Michael Arrington asked if Zuckerberg wants everyone on Facebook, he said “Of course we do, but I don’t think that’s realistic.” There will always be people who don’t like a particular tool. You don’t have to look far on the Internet for people who hate Facebook, yet we’re wired to share. Whether its via SMS, email, Twitter, or its own social network, Internet.org and Facebook’s task is to give people access and let them choose how to communicate.

All humans want to be connected, Zuckerberg concluded. And with a glint in his eye about his own purpose on this planet and that of his company, Zuckerberg exclaimed, “That’s why we’re here.”
 ( Orignally posted at +TechCrunch )

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Zuckerberg’s Manifest Destiny: Connecting The 5 Billion People Without Internet

Tuesday, 10 September 2013



Startups Apparently Do Not Care That Android Is Better

htc-one-review08

In a must-read post for the tech industry, Twitter experience designer and serial startup founder Paul Stamatiou writes: “Android is Better.” His op-ed serves as something of a wake-up call for the industry, where developers building the next generation of mobile applications still heavily prefer the iPhone, not only as their personal smartphone of choice, but also as the launch platform for their latest creations.

Many who have already heeded Android’s siren song found themselves nodding along to nearly every point Stamatiou made, ranging from the minor details, like how Android handles notifications, to broader statements about Android’s “magical user experience,” which involves the use of a global back button, Google Now integration and Android intents for app-to-app interoperability and communication. While obviously an opinion piece, Stamatiou’s thoughts came across as reasoned and well-argued, and didn’t at all resemble the fanboy-ish op-eds often published to incite religious wars between the iPhone and Android zealots for website traffic’s sake.

Most Tech Companies Are Still iOS-First

Having recently made the switch from the iPhone 5 to the Nexus 4 and then back to the iPhone 5 myself, the pro-Android argument struck a personal chord. It’s at least the third time I’ve attempted to leave the iPhone. For all the same reasons, I too had found myself again falling in love with the Android operating system. But there’s one thing that keeps pulling me back to iPhone: the apps.

As an early adopter, and technology enthusiast in general — a mindset TechCrunch readers probably share — being solely on Android can be a frustrating experience. Today’s tech companies are still launching their mobile applications on iOS first. This includes apps from the smallest of startups to some of the largest, like Twitter, which launched its video-sharing app Vine as well as Twitter Music on iPhone first (the latter of which is not yet on Android, four months after its debut).

facebook-here-come-the-androids-1

The iOS-first mentality is so ingrained in the culture of the tech and startup scene, in fact, that Facebook had once plastered large signs around its offices begging employees to switch to Android. Later, the company released its own take on what Android users supposedly want with “Facebook Home,” an Android launcher that quickly tanked. Had Facebookers understood the true ethos of Android, they would have perhaps realized that Android users favor the customization and personalization aspects of the platform. Meanwhile, Facebook Home was a full-on takeover of the entire Android interface and experience, with little wiggle room to change much of anything about its behavior.

If you look at Android’s top charts, you’ll find they’re continually filled with apps that let users tweak, customize, and better control their Android devices. For instance, in July of this year, the top five paid Android apps included a keyboard replacement (Swiftkey) in the No. 1 position, a fairly geeky utility for users who had rooted their phones (Titanium Backup) in the No. 2 position, and an alternative launcher (Nova) as No. 4, according to analytics firm Distimo.


The constant tweaking and customizing is fun, but at some point, it becomes just another way to pass the time while waiting for the latest and greatest new application to make its way to Android. You know – eventually.

This is not the story you’ll hear from headstrong Android devotees who point to the sheer number of Android apps available today. Of course, it’s true that the Apple and Android app stores are roughly close in terms of the numbers of applications offered, and have been for some time. There are over 900,000 iOS applications, while analysts estimated as of May there are over 800,000 Android apps available. It’s not that there aren’t enough Android apps out there. There just aren’t the brand-new ones early adopters might want — those from startups you may read about here on TechCrunch, for example. Those almost invariably go iOS-first.

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It’s hard to even think of tech companies that launched on Android first in recent months, but there are a few. Any.DO, a mobile task list app was on Android before iPhone; mobile messenger Invi bet on Android, too. Imgur launched on Android before iPhone, but only because it had to clean itself up a bit, in order to be approved for distribution through iTunes. And Zillow, with what feels like an awkward nod to the demographics of Android users, launched its Rentals app on Android first last fall. (These are off the top of my head. I asked on Twitter, and a few responses trickled in, including Smoopa and … um, does Google Now count?)
To be clear, there are certainly many, many Android applications that aren’t on iOS, but this is mainly the result of developers taking advantage of the Android platform in ways that Apple would not allow. This includes the tweakers and customizers, but also the suite of Google apps that are better baked into Android, such as Google Now. (On iPhone, “Now” is more like a feature within the Google app — a standalone experience.)

 

iOS Apps Still Missing An Android Counterpart

Ignoring games or children’s apps, which are also too often iOS-only, I took a look at my iPhone to see what apps I would have to give up to make the switch to Android today. As it turns out, there are still quite a few. Here’s a short list of iOS-only apps broken down by category:

Top 5 Paid Apps-July 2013-Google Play-Distimo

I can live without most of them, sure, but a couple are painful to give up. A caveat here is that the list includes companies that have already promised Android is in their future. It also includes some well-known iOS-only publishers who will likely never come to Android. But a good chunk of it includes the tech companies who, with limited resources, just decided to pick iOS first.


Why Apple? Revenue. Development. (And Everyone Else Is Doing It.)

There are a number of reasons for that choice, of course. Tech companies are often lacking in in-house Android expertise, or are influenced by the fact that they and everyone they know uses an iPhone. Plus, according to Vision Mobile’s most recent report, 44 percent of more experienced developers (3-5 years experience) choose iOS, while 31 percent pick Android. These are the folks building startups.

Companies also like to say that most of their users prefer iOS devices, citing mobile web statistics. This seems to be true – iPhone users spend more minutes on their devices than Android users.

But most importantly, there’s the revenue situation. Apple’s App Store still earns roughly double that of Google Play. (Depending on who you ask, it could be two times or as high as 2.6 times.).

Android’s Time Is Coming?

That being said, Google Play’s revenue capabilities are growing, having climbed by 67 percent in the past six months, per Distimo’s estimates. At some point, as Android market share grows (Android now leads by a wide margin, outside of the U.S.), the revenue possibilities may begin to shift in favor of Android. The large install base will start to matter. And it’s easier to reach the top 250 on Android than on iOS.

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The startups that “make it” to Android will have acquired developers with the chops to code for the platform, and perhaps one day, they’ll take those skills to a startup of their own. Today, 40 percent of new developers choose Android, and only 21 percent pick iOS. In other words, there’s still the potential for the market to change.
And there is some indication that Android users are hungry for great apps. A year after Instagram arrived on Android, for example, half of its users came from that platform.

In late 2011, Google Chairman Eric Schmidt once proclaimed that a wave of Android-first apps was on the near horizon. Over a year and a half later, that hasn’t happened yet. That’s not to say it never will !!

( This was orrignally posted at +TechCrunch )
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Startups Apparently Do Not Care That Android Is Better

Monday, 9 September 2013





Android Is The New Windows


Android Is The New Windows
A flexible, customizable operating system that’s farmed out to third-party hardware makers and dominates market share but not profits? You’re not the only one experiencing déjà vu. The parallels of Android and Windows are striking. But can that which is unique about Android save it from the fate befalling Microsoft’s stumbling OS?

Let’s look at the similarities between the Android of today and the Windows 95 of … ’95:
  • Android is a growing platform with endless form-factor diversity (or fragmentation, depending on how you look at it) and strong OEM support, just like Windows has had and still enjoys.
  • Android’s flexibility for users and developers created an explosion in app variety, but also an unruly app store with a growing issue with malware. The same was true of Windows during the early days of the Internet.
  • Android, like Windows before it, followed Apple into its market by leaning on third-party hardware firms. The plan helped both to surpass Apple’s hardware shipments. Android tablets currently outsell the iPad globally more than two to one.
  • OEMs looking to boost per-device profit tweak the Android operating system and often cut at its daily functionality by over-skinning the platform among other similar issues. Windows PCs still suffer from the same issue, as OEMs pump them full of crappy bloatware before delivering them to consumers.
  • Android devices are often cheaper than iOS units, but at the same time can compete at the higher price and quality tiers. Just as it has long been simple to pick up a cheap laptop that runs Windows, you can also spend untold sums on a gaming or media machine that can handle anything you throw at it if you want. That wasn’t true with Mac, and it isn’t true now with iOS. But if you want to buy a massive-screened Android you can.
Perhaps the most important point of the Android and Windows comparison is that of longevity. Windows has been around since 1985. Hardware-based operating systems last.
Just as computers have changed since 1985, so has Windows. And smartphones and tablets will change, too. But we still have PCs, and we’ll still have smartphones and tablets in a decade. Android is currently using a similar strategy to Microsoft’s Windows play to take over the hottest two segments in hardware and software.

People now say that, while Android has huge market share, it’s iOS that is beloved and profitable. But if history repeats itself, the smartphone wars will be decided less by short-term profits and app figures, and more by who will control the smartphone world in five, 10 and 15 years. That’s increasingly looking like Android
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And it’s firmly ironic that Microsoft is currently working to build tablet and smartphone market share against Android, which is using its old playbook against it. If only Microsoft had taken its own advice sooner.

 ( This was orrignally posted at +TechCrunch )
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Android the new Windows

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