May 27, 2011

It takes a lot of guts to accuse some of the most popular iPad apps of putting form over function. That’s exactly what the Nielsen Norman Group has accomplished with a usability study which has proved in ways more than one that, unfortunately, many iPad apps and websites could use a little work in the usability department. The study stems from numerous observations collected from sixteen individuals who have owned iPads for two months. Each person performed a variety of tasks in cherry-picked iPad apps and websites. Even the simple tasks such as browsing stories in The Daily app or listening to podcasts in the NPR app posed problems, resulting in frustrated users. Here’s a summary of the key findings.

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May 26, 2011

The future of e-commerce is here, but  it only works for Sprint customers with a Nexus S 4G handset. Our take is that an iPhone app is in the works as we speak. Apple fans are simply too big a market for e-wallet too ignore.

Boom, Google Wallet has gone live at the just-finished presser in Google’s New York office. The search Goliath means business, that’s for sure. They’ve managed to convince the journos like us who have seen it all that Google Wallet is no toy. We have here an end-to-end mobile payment solution which quite possibly marks an inflection point in e-commerce. I ain’t drinking Google’s Kool-Aid, bear with me for a sec.

There are two pieces to it: Google Wallet itself, which runs as a native app on your mobile device equipped with an NFC chip, and Google Offers, a Groupon-like service providing rebates, savings and offers that can be easily redeemed on your device, at the points of sale. One click on an offer on the web sends the coupon over-the-air to your devices authorized for Google Wallet. You can also use your device’s camera to snap the Google Offers icon found on printed marketing materials such as in-store posters, banners, print ads and so forth.

Googlers love Macs. The above screengrab is from the Google Wallet promo shown at the presser (it’s not yet available on YouTube). The highly polished clip has iMacs all over the place.

Paying for goods is a one-tap affair involving waving your device in front of the wireless payment terminal at participating merchants. The transaction is processed within seconds and directly settled with your issuing bank. In addition, your device negotiates with the merchant’s terminal to automatically redeem offers and earn loyalty points for you. Someday, Google boldly proclaimed, stuff like boarding passes, tickets, ID and keys will be stored in your Google Wallet. You will also get electronic receipts that will eliminate bills on paper. Looking good so far. What’s the catch?

The keynote demonstration had Google’s speaker buying a shorts for his daughter. He waived the phone and the clerk’s terminal took into account his loyalty card and automatically deducted his saved coupon. The live transaction was handled successfully in the second try.

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May 24, 2011

Per Apple’s lawsuit against Samsung over an alleged copyright infringement, a federal court is forcing Samsung to hand over samples of the supposedly infringing devices, including packaging. Why? Apple wants to determine whether Samsung’s gear mimics the look and feel of Apple gadgets too closely, CNET reports, quoting a Courthouse News Service article.

Normally, there’d be three months before Samsung had to hand over samples, but San Jose Judge Lucy Koh has decided that Samsung has already been shooting its mouth off about the unreleased phones and can’t claim they’re secret models, Courthouse News reports. Apple points out that Samsung even gave away a Galaxy Tab 10.1 tablet to all 5,000 people at the recent Google I/O developer conference.

This includes Samsung’s flagship Galaxy S II smartphone, in addition to the Infuse 4G and Droid Charge. The ruling also applies to the Galaxy-branded tablets (8-9 inch and 10.1-inch models), but not to Samsung’s iPod touch lookalike dubbed the Galaxy Player. Notice anything strange about this brouhaha?

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9to5toys 

A new iTunes version? Close. This is Miro 4, a new feature-packed media player for Mac OS X, Windows and Linux.

Do you feel constrained by the limited media player choices for your Mac? Here’s something completely different. The non-profit Participatory Culture Foundation has just released a brand new cross-platform media player dubbed Miro 4 that “lets you break free”, as the tagline says. The long list of features is pretty impressive. Miro 4 works with your existing media libraries without any copying involved. Just point the application to your music and video folders (including the iTunes music library) and voila – your media automagically appears.

It comes with the Amazon MP3 store and a bittorrent client built-in. Desktop and mobile devices running Miro can share and transfer music and video files to each other effortlessly over the wireless network. They are also working on versions for iPad and other tablets. What else could you ask for? How about this…

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May 23, 2011

The Ecconomic Times expands on the recent chatter about the iTunes Cloud (iCloud?)service we’ve been hearing about.  The news site confirms that Apple has locked up deals with 3/4 of the top labels (Universal is widely reported to be the holdout) and is set to reveal the new service at next month’s WWDC.

The Cupertino, California-based gadget-maker is expected to launch a new Web-hosted music service next month, according to multiple reports, after negotiating deals with at least three of the four major record labels.

WWDC isn’t traditionally a venue for iTunes related news but we’ll give Apple a pass…

May 19, 2011

Bloomberg this evening reports that Apple and Sony have come to terms on a streaming music licensing deal, leaving the largest label, Universal, as the only one of the big four labels not to (yet) sign with Apple.  Earlier this year and again this week, it was reported that EMI signed with Apple.

A licensing deal will allow Apple to more efficiently store music in the Cloud (it can store top songs only once rather than once for every user library that contains the song like Google).  Apple could announce a product as early as WWDC or at a more traditional music event, like the one Apple usually introduces iPods at in the Fall.

Bloomberg also noted that Apple would need to reach agreements with music publishers, which control different rights than the labels. expand full story

9to5google 

Patently Apple today reveals a patent filed all the way back in 2009 that relates to Cloud music streaming with iTunes.  Calling the service “seamless and invisible to the user,” Apple details how the service picks the location to retrive data whether it is local or stored on a server.

The device could stream media files from a remote source (e.g., a content server operated by a content generator or a content sales point). To play back a remote media files, the electronic device could direct communications circuitry to establish a communications path with the remote content source. Once the communications path has been established, the content source could provide the requested media item to the device. Once the device has locally cached a sufficient amount of the media item, the electronic device could begin streamed media playback.

So, that means Apple could decide to store the beginning of a song, for instance, locally while choosing to store the rest of the song in the Cloud.  To the user, the song just plays instantly, but iTunes is saving local space by caching only a fraction of the song locally.

Another interesting passage:

The media items owned or accessible by a user could be stored in a user’s media library. The media library could be stored on any suitable device, including for example on a host device, on a remotely accessed server, in a cloud, or in any other suitable location. The user could store at least some media items of the library on an electronic device so that the user could locally play back the media items. The electronic device could include communications circuitry for remotely connecting to the media library and stream media items to the user’s device.

Apple’s iTunes Cloud music offering has gotten a lot of press recently as Apple is rumored to have signed deals with two of the top four music labels and its competitors, Amazon and Google, both recently released Cloud-based music storage.

More at Patently Apple

 

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The venerable Apple-branded music locker in the cloud is virtually a go as Apple has apparently signed a streaming agreement with record label EMI, CNET’s Greg Sandoval reported yesterday evening. Multiple industry sources told the publication that the remaining two labels are about to sign on a dotted line:

Apple has signed a cloud-music licensing agreement with EMI Music and is very near to completing deals with Universal Music Group and Sony Music Entertainment.

Those talks could be completed “as early as next week”, sources say.

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May 18, 2011

All those surveys about corporate America embracing iPads? They’re accurate. Here’s a shocker, though: Most are missing or neglecting the fact that businesses are clueless about putting Apple’s shiny gadget – or tablets as a product category – to a productive use. According to a recent Digital Research survey, more than half of the businesses interviewed said they didn’t have a tablet strategy even though they were handing out tablets left and right to their employees. Talk about the consumerization of the enterprise. That’s just tip of the iceberg, though.

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electrek 

May 17, 2011

That Apple zoomed past Microsoft in terms of profits is also a reflection of their relatively high yearly profit per employee. That’s the inevitable conclusion based on a research note by analytics firm Pingdom, sourced from public Yahoo! Finance data. The survey looked at the profit-per-employee metric for several tech brands that are publicly traded on NYSE and NASDAQ, including Google, Intel, Microsoft, Hewlett-Packard and others.

In 2008, Google was leading this list, but now Apple has surpassed it by quite some margin. This isn’t because it’s not going well for Google, but rather because it’s going spectacular for Apple.

So, what can we learn from this data?

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DigiTimes reported this morning on the retail channel chatter that suggests a late May launch for iPad 2 in Taiwan. They should know: DigiTimes is a Taiwanese trade publication:

Sources in the retail channel estimate that the iPad 2 should be launched as soon as within the next 1-2 weeks.

The publication also wrote that the wait for the sought-after tablet is causing weak demand for Android slates and tablet PCs in general because a portion of would-be tablet buyers are postponing their purchase until iPad 2 arrives.

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May 16, 2011

Seagate today announced the GoFlex mobile wireless storage for iOS devices, first uncovered in the FCC documents this past Friday. In addition to Apple’s mobile products, it works with any WiFi-enabled device thanks to its built-in 802.11 b/g/n wireless networking. The half a terabyte drive has fifteen times the capacity of a 32GB iPhone 4 and eight times more room to hold your apps, photos, videos and other data than a 64GB iPad.

Buy at Amazon: $199

In fact, 500GB should be enough for most folks to carry their entire iTunes library with them. The drive has a rechargeable battery that provides up to five hours of continuous operation and up to 25 hours of stand-by time. Your iOS devices talk to it via the free GoFlex Media app. GoFlex Satellite will retail for $199 when it arrives this July at Amazon, BestBuy.com and Seagate.com stores.

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May 12, 2011

After more than a decade of constant decline, music industry executives finally have reasons to celebrate. According to the latest Nielsen Soundscan survey, US music sales are up 1.6 percent due to strong digital sales. More precisely, sales of digital tracks rose a notable 16.8 percent while sales of individual tracks upped a healthy 9.6 percent.

Physical albums, however, remain on a downward spiral with an 8.3 percent decline while CD sales declined 8.8 percent overall. Interestingly, the research firm cited the arrival of Beatles on iTunes for the rebound in digital music sales.

Catalog album sales are up 5.4 percent in 2011, thanks in part to a long-awaited 2010 deal allowing digital distribution of The Beatles’ albums for the first time.

This is a pretty important change considering that the music industry has been on a downhill ride for more than ten years now. It also proves that online stores like Apple’s iTunes and Amazon’s MP3 store continue to lead the charge in the digital music revolution.

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9to5toys 

Taiwanese trade publication DigiTimes relayed this morning whispers from the supply chain asserting that Apple might experience problems with shipments of iPad 2 and iPhone 4 in the second quarter amid “a shortage of both labor and materials” for smartphones and tablet PCs at Foxconn’s Chengdu, China plants. Foxconn, a long-time manufacturing partner of Apple’s, declined to comment on the rumored shipments delay. Most iPad 2 supplies still originate from Foxconn’s Shenzen plants, however.

Most market watchers have estimated that total iPad 2 shipments in the second quarter will reach as high as seven million units, but since Apple is trying to reach its shipment goal of 35-40 million units for 2011, the company has been pushing its upstream partners to aim at supplying 10-10.5 million units in the second quarter, the sources added.

Another report from the same publication re-iterated previous supply chain suspicious, citing the Japan earthquake and the power brownout policy as principal reasons. Players like Motorola, Acer, Apple, HTC and others have reportedly started “acting aggressively in securing supplies”. The real challenge will be fulfilling orders in June. Perhaps these ongoing supply woes are why Apple allegedly pushed back iPhone 5 to September or later?

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May 11, 2011

Sad news for fans of e-reading. BeamItDown Software announced they are closing down the shop and ceasing development of iFlow Reader, an e-book reader for iOS, due to Apple’s 30 percent cut and new rules that require all content sales to go through the iOS in-app purchasing mechanism. As a result, publishers like iFlow Reader are increasingly finding that Apple’s 30 percent cut is eating into their margins, leaving them with little or no revenue.

BeamItDown Software and the iFlow Reader will cease operations as of May 31, 2011.  We absolutely do not want to do this, but Apple has made it completely impossible for anyone but Apple to make a profit selling contemporary ebooks on any iOS device. We cannot survive selling books at a loss and so we are forced to go out of business. We bet everything on Apple and iOS and then Apple killed us by changing the rules in the middle of the game. This is a very sad day for innovation on iOS in this important application category. We are a small company that thought we could build a better product. We think that we did but we are powerless against Apple’s absolute control of the iOS platform.

“They [Apple] screwed us”, BeamItDown Software’s Philip Huber told Fortune. expand full story

May 9, 2011

In the run up to Google I/O tomorrow, Google is releasing information on its Cloud offerings for both video and Music.

Earlier today, Google said it would be renting 3000 Hollywood feature videos through its Youtube service.  There will be more to come and some videos will be free with advertisements – just like regular old TV, which YouTube aims to replace.  That news isn’t exactly new but it has finally become official.  It will likely be demoed at I/O tomorrow.

Additionally, Google just released the news that its “Music Beta by Google” (horrible name) would allow users to upload up to 20,000 songs to the Cloud.  The service, like Amazon’s Cloud (but 10 times bigger), doesn’t have the blessings of the record labels so buying and sharing music through the service has not yet been activated.  Google’s purchase of SimplifyMedia will allow users to upload the music to Google’s oceans of Cloud storage.

Apple is reportedly working with the labels to get their iTunes Cloud legitimized by the labels and by last count, had two of the four signed on.  An announcement would likely take place at Apple’s annual September Music event.

There will be full coverage of Google I/O 2011 at 9to5Google, our new sister site. expand full story

9to5google 

Microsoft has released a new toolkit to help iOS developers write applications for Apple’s mobile platform that also play nice with cloud Windows, also known as Windows Azure. The Windows maker says the toolkit is available for its own Windows Phone platform as well, adding that a version for Android is due next month. The iOS tookit facilitates the creation of both iPhone and iPad apps developed using Objective-C and XCode. Why bother? Microsoft explains they want to “make it easier to target Windows Azure by offering native libraries for non-Microsoft platforms”.

Using the toolkits, developers can use the cloud to accelerate the creation of applications on the major mobile platforms.

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May 5, 2011

Various market surveys pegged Apple’s share of the holiday tablet market anywhere from 75 percent to more than the 95 percent Steve Jobs claimed at the iPad 2 introduction last February. Research firm Nielsen is out today with a new survey that in fact shows Apple growing its US tablet share rather than decline amid more than two hundred tablets swarming the market. The survey, which was fielded in Spring 2011, shows Apple controlling a whopping 82 percent of the US tablet market.

With new entrants like the Samsung Galaxy and the Motorola Xoom, the market for tablet computers is heating up in the United States, even though iPad continues to dominate the conversation – and market.

Interestingly, Samsung (four percent), Dell (three percent) and Motorola Mobility (two percent) devices collectively have nine percent market share, the same as the Other category. Other interesting observations reveal that tablets continue chipping away at other computing devices, namely our desktop and notebook computers…

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I bet you’d want an iPhone case that doubles as a portable Polaroid printer, like the one envisioned in the above shot. It’s just an artist’s rendition, mind you. Give a thumbs-up for this one to freelance designer Mac Funamizu who designed an imaginary iPhone dock which can instantly print iPhone images. But why bother? Funamizu explains on his blog:

I wish there were an iPhone dock that instantly prints out the photo you take. Yes, I’m one of those people who still relish the feel (and smell) of photos.

It’s not just a pretty render – this wondrous concept accessory has been conceived with two cool features in mind…

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electrek 

May 3, 2011

Earlier today, we noted that Adobe had introduced three new iPad apps.  Adobe today also announced availability of its Creative Suite 5.5 digital authoring software with HTML5 enhancements:

Creative Suite 5.5 Web Premium Suite is packed with innovations in HTML5 and Flash authoring tools, empowering customers to create, deliver and monetize rich content and applications for virtually any screen. Designers and developers can create rich browser-based content across screens using HTML5. Adobe Flash® Professional CS5.5, Flash Builder™ 4.5 Premium and theFlex® 4.5 framework allow users to quickly and easily develop, test and deploy high-performance mobile applications for Android, BlackBerry Tablet OS and Apple iOS.

The other biggie in this release is the ability to publish to tablet platforms (read: iPad):

Creative Suite 5.5 Design Premium Suite builds upon Adobe’s product innovations in publishing already deployed by some of the world’s leading newspaper, magazine and business publishers to create print and stunning digital versions of their properties for the latest tablet devices. Using Adobe InDesign CS5.5, in combination with the integrated Folio Producer toolset, designers can add new levels of interactivity to their page layouts targeted at tablet devices. Adobe today also announced the immediate availability of the Professional Edition of Adobe® Digital Publishing Suite, a turnkey solution that includes hosted services and viewer technology that allow publishers to cost-efficiently publish content to Android tablets, BlackBerry PlayBook and Apple iPad (see separate release).

Pricing and Availability

Adobe Creative Suite 5.5 products are immediately available through Adobe Authorized Resellers, the Adobe Store at www.adobe.com/store in North America and Adobe Direct Sales. Estimated street price for the suites is US$2599 for CS5.5 Master Collection, US$1899 for CS5.5 Design Premium, US$1799 for CS5.5 Web Premium, US$1699 for CS5.5 Production Premium and US$1299 for CS5.5 Design Standard. Upgrade pricing and volume licensing are available.

Amazon has pre-orders up with $100 discounts.

A 30-day free trial is also available.

Students and Teachers as always get up to 80% off your Adobe purchases.

Full Press release follows:

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