Thursday, December 15, 2011

Last Day of Android's 10 Cent App Celebration Ends Tonight

Earlier last week, Google announced that the Android Market had hit 10 billion downloads, and had an impressive growth rate of over a billion downloads per month. As a result, they have been celebrating by offering 10 (or so) paid apps for just $0.10 each day. Today is the 10th and final day, so if you haven't taken advantage of the promotion, this is your last chance.

This promotion is a pretty cool way to introduce a lot of people into the paid app ecosystem. The Android App Market, with its preponderance of free apps, doesn't always generate the same per-download revenue as the iOS market, and this could be a bet by Google that once people get comfortable with the idea of paying for quality apps that they will then make repeat purchases. I'll freely admit that I have recently begun to use Android, and that when I started I figured my data plan was costly enough and I'd rarely use a paid app unless it was something essential. I've been sorely tempted for the last 9 days though, and may give in today and try it out - $0.10 is just so harmless. I imagine a lot of other people have had similar reactions.

Google's methodology is interesting here when compared with what Apple did when it reached the same milestone back in January. Kevin over at ITWorld emphasizes the point that Google isn't covering the difference between the discount and the App's original costs - they have simply "partnered" with the developers, essentially offering them free promotion in exchange for the lower price. Apple, on the other hand, offered the person who made the 10 billionth download a $10,000 iTunes gift card. Kevin calls it apt but doesn't actually go into why, leaving it to each reader to insert his or her own Apple/Google stereotype into the comparison. Well, I'll bite. Apple and Google both have platforms rife with "fanboys" (and fangirls) who are devoted to the OS. In Google's case, you love Android for the large, open community feeling. In Apple's case, you love iOS because you feel it is curated just for you. So Google tries to reward the community, and Apple tries to reward you. It's the same thing, really, as an attempt to build loyalty, but the difference is interesting to think about. Feel free to disagree with me in the comments, but do tell me why if you do.

In any case, without any further ado, here are today's $0.10 Android Market Apps.

See the Android Market for more.

This content was originally published on Yahoo! Voices by Danny Shain and is posted here with permission of the author.

Monday, December 12, 2011

HP releases WebOS to open source developers

The HP TouchPad.  Source: HP

HP has recently announced that they'll be contributing the WebOS software to the open source community.   “By contributing this innovation," CEO Meg Whitman says, "HP unleashes the creativity of the open source community to advance a new generation of applications and devices.”

To which most fans of WebOS likely responded, "Finally."

Palm's WebOS was much beloved by many of its users, but due to lackluster hardware in phones like the Pre and Pre Plus compared to Android and iOS phones, the software never really gained traction.  When HP bought Palm earlier last year for a cool $1.2 billion, WebOS fans hoped this would mean an infusion of cash and resources that would save the operating system.  HP sold the HP Veer on AT&T for a while and came out with a tablet, the TouchPad, but that lasted less than two unsuccessful months before being sold off in a firesale.  The future of WebOS looked dim at this point.

However, if you check out the Palm HP WebOS developers blog, this announcement has gotten people excited.  HP has committed to staying involved with the development of WebOS too.  While other companies will be able to use the software on their own hardware for free now, this could mean HP is hoping to release some new WebOS products themselves, whether it's connected printers or another smartphone.

This is much better for the fate of WebOS than HP hoarding the technology, but with Android and iOS dominating the market, and Microsoft investing heavily in Windows 8 and Windows Phone, is there still room for WebOS?  Guess we'll have to see what the open source community can do with it now that this is all out there.

Thursday, December 8, 2011

IT firm Atos CEO bans Email, claims "we are not using it the way it was intended"

Atos CEO Thierry Breton has made waves recently with his plan to ban the use of internal Emails at his company, one of the largest IT firms in the world with over 80,000 employees.  The plan, which was first described earlier this year, calls for a zero email policy to take effect in around 18 months.  Communication will take the form of social media tools, phone calls, and face to face meetings.  Describing Email use in his company, Theirry told the BBC that "15% of the messages [are] useful, and the rest was lost time.".

Theirry engaged in an in-depth study and realized that managers were spending an average of 15-20 hours a week checking and answering internal emails, and that employees received an average of 100 emails a day.  According to The Daily Mail, he claims only 20 out of 200 are truly important, and it takes 64 seconds to get back on the ball after reading a distracting Email.  With an average employee age of 35, Breton claims his is a "young company," and that a trial run with 500 younger employees is already going great.  The Telegraph quotes the supporting argument that, according to, only 11 per cent of 11 to 19 year-olds use Email anyway.

So is this the wave of the future?

Probably.  But I'm guessing it will be a smaller wave than people think.

Ty Kiisel over at Forbes, talking about this issue, notes that he is finding an increasing amount of his communication is being done over social media, but also notes that he uses his phone more for email than for calling, which is sort of a mixed signal since it's both "the wave of the future" of phones and, according to Breton, the soon-to-be remnants of the past because it's still Email.  Personally, as a smartphone owner, I certainly find myself texting more often than when I had a flip phone, and there's no denying that smartphones will be in most people's pockets sooner or later.  However, I don't think Email's going away as a personal tool.

I actually find Email quicker and easier than Facebook or Twitter for directed messaging, though it obviously falls short for sharing with a large audience (I can't remember the last time I was on a list-serv).  Perhaps the problem is that Email occupies a middle ground - for short messages to small groups, texting is faster, and for messages to large groups, various social media is far easier - leaving Email only with long messages to small groups.  Hmm... is it me, or isn't that the domain of written letters, which is actually what Email was first supposed to replace?  It didn't of course, just like eBooks have not killed written books, but it's an interesting relationship to consider.  Having gone so far from that, as Breton says, maybe we're just not using it how we should anymore.

Picture via Engadget

Sunday, December 4, 2011

TechnologySpeaks: The Nintendo 64 - Best Console Ever?

Evan-Amos; Wikimedia

The Nintendo 64 was undoubtedly the best cartridges had to offer, but was it the best console ever?

As someone who grew up during the emergence of modern console gaming – I was born not too long before the 1985 US debut of the NES, which was my first console – it isn't easy to pick out a favorite. Sega, when it still developed consoles, was always innovating (Sega CD anyone?) and had the top sports games. In recent years, Sony and Microsoft have taken that mantel and pushed realism and graphics to amazing places.  My favorite series of all time, however, is still probably Zelda, which means Nintendo, and though I do love the Wii, I need to give due credit to the Nintendo 64.

My primary argument for the N64 is that it was groundbreaking for a lot of the parts of gaming that are still my favorites. Even though it still used cartridges when everyone else was using CDs – which, besides the debatable nostalgiac charm of blowing on a game to get it to work, at least meant I couldn't scratch up my games like I did on my early Playstation – it had 3D graphics that are still playable over a decade after its debut. Also key was the fact that it had four controllers when other consoles still had two during a time before internet multiplayer.  This meant it was by far the most fun to play in a group. This singlehandedly made games like GoldenEye 007 and Super Smash Brothers amazing, exposing console gamers to a kind of exciting fast-twitch experience that just wasn't an option before. And of course, plenty of single player games like Zelda: Ocarina of Time were deep, well thought out and just as fun to play as those on any other console.

The Wii might have started the most recent revolution with motion sensing, the N64 may not have the graphics chops to compete anymore, and Final Fantasy VII for the Playstation just could be my favorite game from that era (don't make me pick!). Still, the early implementation of four person gaming and the genres it spawned, combined with the strong focus still given to its single player classics, makes the N64 the best console of all time to me. Set next to a Sega Genesis and an Xbox 360 in front of my TV (truly), I'll still pick up the N64 with surprising regularity.

What do you think the best console ever was, and why?

Wednesday, September 7, 2011

Netflix blocks concurrent streams for some users, then unblocks it, calls it all a big misunderstanding

Earlier today, some Netflix users began to discover the above error message when trying to view multiple streams on their Netflix account.  NetFlix's longstanding FAQ and TOS officially state that streaming users are limited to one stream only, and that DVD users are limited to one stream per-DVD, but these restrictions had rarely if ever been enforced.  On September 5th though, stopthecap reported that Netflix had suddenly and forcefully begun to enforce this policy.

Why would Netflix do this?  In theory, this would stop far-flung friends from illegally sharing one Netflix account, an abuse Netflix would surely love to curb.  However, many families with multiple viewers would be affected by such a change as well, left with no option but to pay more if they want their kids to be able to watch different shows at the same time.  In a strange twist, the move comes at the same time as the unpopular price hikes, giving those who were frustrated with Netflix yet more ammunition.

Perhaps that's why Netflix pulled the plug on this "glitch" so quickly.  According to a spokesman who spoke with stopthecap today, it was all a big misunderstanding, and no user should be limited to any less than two streams.  Arstechnica confirmed that the policy is you get the number of DVDs you have out plus one, and streaming only users simply have two.  As stopthecap notes though, the FAQ and other docmentation listing official limits hasn't changed, so it's hard to know if the current policies are temporary or just a response to the backlash.  For now though, stream away.

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Steve Jobs resigns as Apple CEO

Steve Jobs - image via crunchbase

Breaking news - Steve Jobs has resigned as the CEO of Apple.  Mere minutes after my iPhone 5 post comes out, Steve Jobs again steals the show.

This is huge news for both Apple and the greater tech world.  Jobs is largely given direct credit for Apple's success in the last decade or so, with MacBooks, iPods, iPhones and iPads saving Apple from near-irrelevance and catapulting it to one of the most powerful companies in the world.  Jobs was a very hands-on CEO, well known for his showmanship during keynote speaches and his influence on design decisions.  Recently, his health problems had made it more difficult for him to handle some of these duties, and in a brief statement Jobs claimed he was no longer able to live up to the expectations of Apple CEO.  He strongly recommended acting CEO Tim Cook as his successor.

It feels like the end of an era.  There may not be another company on earth so represented by a single person, and with the aura of secrecy around all things Apple, there's a sense that Jobs knows things nobody else does.  Apple is in a strong position, and given that Tim Cook has been acting CEO for much of this year already, it seems likely Apple will continue to lead the tech world, at least for the near future.  Say what you will about the closed-garden approach of Apple as headed by Jobs, but it will be impossible for the company to replace someone so innovative.

See the statement after the break.

Update: Tim Cook has officially been named Apple's next CEO.

iPhone 5 to debut in mid-October, Sprint finally getting in on the action

Apple's iPhone 4 - the iPhone 5 will be slimmer and lighter
Apple has finally come clean with a general release date for the next generation of its popular smartphone, announcing that the phone will be available in "mid-October," according to people "familiar with the matter" as cited by the WSJ.  The WSJ also let out that Sprint, which is the third largest carrier in the US but has had difficulty holding onto its customers, will be getting both the upcoming iPhone 5 and the iPhone 4 at the same time. 

Apple's policy of exclusivity with AT&T, which reigned from 2007 until early 2011, was ended when Verizon began selling the iPhone 4 in February.  However, Verizon didn't get Apple's last-gen phone, the iPhone 3GS.  As a result, despite very similar subscription numbers, Verizon sold 4.5 million total iPhones, compared with 7.2 million at AT&T.  Sprint won't have that disadvantage when they join the iPhone selling party in October.

The iPhone 5 has been hotly anticipated for months - every iPhone after the first debuted in June, and when that month came and went with no iPhone, rumors began to fly.  For everyone who has been milking another month out of their old phones while waiting to upgrade, well, you finally have a date, even if it is almost still months away.  With Sprint getting in on the fun, the vast majority of Americans have iPhone access, with just T-Mobile on the outside - though as the WSJ notes, this announcement sure doesn't hurt AT&T's chances of swallowing up T-Mobile in their proposed merger (since Sprint is now stronger), so they may get it in the end too.