Archive | April, 2010

Twitter Does Android, Winningly

30. April 2010

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A couple of weeks ago, when Twitter announced that it would soon release an official Twitter app for Android phones, I fantasized that the company was going to port Loren Brichter’s miraculous Tweetie Twitter for IPhone to Android. It didn’t. But it’s done something pretty pleasing on its own terms: It’s released a really nice original (and fre) Twitter app for Android. For now, it’s replacing the very-respectable-but-not-spectacular Seesmic as my Android Twitter client of choice.

The best thing about Twitter for Android is the user interface. It’s arguably a little on the twee side: the Twitter bird is everywhere, there are animated clouds, and trending topics joggle up and down. But overall, it looks really attractive, it’s nicely intuitive, and everything’s legible–virtues which are never a given on the Android platform. (Twidroid Pro and TweetCaster are powerful Twitter clients for Android, but they make my eyeballs hurt.)

Twitter for Android’s most interesting feature is its contact syncing: You can meld your Twitterfriends with your Android contact list, merging photos and other information and putting links to tweets in Android’s contact list. (The program lets you choose between bringing all the people you’re following on Twitter into the Android contact list, or just syncing the people who are already there.) The client also supports geolocation and lists, has a widget, and is generally pretty full-featured with one notable exception: It doesn’t support multiple accounts.

I’m still getting my head around Twitter releasing its own client apps rather than leaving that challenge and opportunity to other folks. But this is a good one. And I’m keeping my fingers crossed that existing third-party Android developers will respond not by giving up but by trying to beat Twitter at its own game.

A few screens after the jump.
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iPad 3G Ships, Has Gotchas

30. April 2010

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Apple started selling the 3G version of the iPad today, and folks are discovering that some apps behave differently on 3G than Wi-Fi. YouTube, for instance, delivers lower-quality video, and the ABC app won’t play at all. Presumably somebody’s still worried that AT&T’s network won’t be able to handle the deluge of data.

I don’t have a 3G iPad and don’t expect to get one anytime soon. Clarification: I do use my iPad on 3G all the time, because  I have a Verizon MiFi wireless hotspot. As long as I remember to charge it, it works just great–and because it’s turning 3G into Wi-Fi, iPad applications don’t dumb themselves down. I also get to pay Verizon one price for Wi-Fi that works with all my computers, my iPad, and my iPhone. Recommended.

InstantAction Streams PC Games, Right on Your Blog

30. April 2010

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Embedding audio and video across the Web is pretty simple thanks to sites like YouTube, Vimeo and others, but embedded computer games? It’s complicated, and yet InstantAction has found a way.

The service, which launched today, allows blogs and other Web sites to post full-length PC games right into the browser. I’m not talking about Flash games, either; InstantAction supports any programming language or engine that can run on a Windows PC.

The first game to work with InstantAction is The Secret of Monkey Island: Special Edition. Regretfully, I’m not able to get the game embedded in our setup here — how embarrassing! — but here’s the game running in Facebook, on Kotaku and on Joystiq.

When you start loading a game in InstantAction, it downloads data in chunks, giving you the most necessary bits first and filling in the rest as you play. Games run in a Web browser, and appear to be streaming, but they rely on the computer’s hardware to do the heavy lifting. In that sense, InstantAction is quite different than the upcoming OnLive, which processes all the graphics on its own servers and sends compressed audio and video to the player. If you’re worried about being shackled to a Web connection, InstantAction Community Manager Ian Tornay wrote in a comment on Joystiq that an offline client is in the works.

Monkey Island lets you play for 20 minutes before you’re asked to pay for the full version, and I expect other games to follow a similar model. The idea is to get players into the game without bothersome downloads and installations.

Things didn’t go so smoothly in my test of Monkey Island, as I had to first install the latest versions of DirectX and Java in order to play, and I’d like to see how the system handles beefier games, like the previously-demonstrated Tribes and Assassin’s Creed. Still, the concept is intriguing: If watching a video online is as simple as clicking a button, the same should be true for playing computer games.

Charlie Stross's Grand Unified Theory of Everything

30. April 2010

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This has been an unusually eventful week in the tech world. Let’s see, we’ve had…

Steve Jobs’ thoughts on Flash

HP’s Palm acquistion

HP’s rumored termination of its Windows 7 slate

Microsoft’s confirmed termination of its Courtier concept tablet

The Gizmodo and Apple saga

Apple’s announcement of its WWDC event (and specifically the lack of awards for Mac apps)

Blogger Charlie Stross does a remarkable job of tying everything together in this post–which says that Jobs’ aversion to Flash is really about Apple, and the rest of the computer industry, facing a life-or-death struggle over the next few years as PCs get even more commoditized and even more of our digital lives move online. Apple, Stross says, is trying to reinvent itself from a manufacturer of Macs into a gatekeeper and provider of services, and it’s trying to do it while it still has time.

One striking, subtle point about Jobs’s memo: He says “Flash was created during the PC era…” In other words, he’s saying we’re no longer in the PC era. Stross says that “the PC revolution is almost coming to an end,” which seems like as good a way to describe where we are as any.

You can quibble with bits and pieces of Stross’s overarching analysis–or the whole damn thing if you want–but it’s incredibly thought provoking. Having grown up in Boston in the 1980s, where Route 128 was lined with wildly successful minicomputer companies which no longer exist, I’m certainly not discounting the possibility that PCs will cease to exist sooner than we expect, and that none of the huge companies that make them is guaranteed an afterlife.

May 31st: The Day the Lala Music Dies

30. April 2010

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Sad but in no way surprising: Apple is shutting down Lala, the excellent music service it bought last December. Lala has already stopped accepting new members; existing customers have access until the end of next month.

Unfortunately, Apple is continuing a long tradition of shuttered online services leaving customers who “bought” stuff at least partially in the lurch. It’s telling people who bought streaming Web songs that they’ll get an iTunes Store credit for the amount they spent “in appreciation of [their] support.”  But there’s no equivalent at the iTunes Store for Web songs, which played only online but only cost a dime apiece, so the credit is more akin to a discount. I hope nobody blew too much money on Web songs thinking that he or she was assembling a music collection of any permanence.

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Is HP's Slate Dead?

30. April 2010

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This is one for the “I Find This Rumor Extremely Hard to Believe” file: Michael Arrington of TechCrunch is reporting that a source has told him that HP has decided to cancel its “slate PC.” You know–the one that was the centerpiece of Steve Ballmer’s CES keynote and which HP was trumpeting as recently as three weeks ago.

It’s not implausible because deciding not to pursue the project is itself inexplicable. Arrington says that HP is killing the slate because it’s unhappy with Windows 7 as a tablet operating system. But it was obvious from the get-go that Win 7 as it stands really doesn’t make much sense for a slate–all the extra touch capability that Microsoft baked in still leaves Windows as a keyboard-and-mouse-centric OS with, um, a touch of touch. And there’s been no evidence to date that Microsoft is interested in doing the necessary work to make Windows a good touch-centric product. There’s no way that a Microsoft slate could have compete with Apple’s iPad unless someone put an immense amount of work into the user interface.

Back at CES, Steve Ballmer didn’t seem that interested in Windows on slate devices. The Windows product manager I talked to at the show didn’t seem that interested. I haven’t noticed a clamor among consumers for Windows slates. Really, most of the enthusiasm so far seems to have come from HP, whose seems to have found reasonable success with its TouchSmart machines. Could it have been so giddy over the idea that it had to build one before it figured out that the idea didn’t make a lot of sense?

And with other news today including the official termination of Microsoft’s “Courier” project, just where does would the cancellation of the HP slate leave Windows when it comes to untraditional PCs?

Hey HP, You Now Own These!

29. April 2010

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With all the ugly legal tussles going on in the phone world, it’s a safe bet that HP is pleased to be picking up a giant portfolio of mobile patents along with Palm, whose acquisition it announced this week. Digging through the riches at Google Patents, I found a lot of Palm patents that didn’t result in PalmPilots–at least not in any obvious way. I’ve assembled some for your viewing pleasure–from the super-ambitious to the merely strange. Wonder if HPalm will make use of any of them?

View The PalmPilots That Never Were slideshow

The PalmPilots That Never Were

29. April 2010

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When HP bought Palm on Wednesday, it got itself a powerful mobile operating system, two phones (plus whatever’s in the pipeline), numerous talented people, and a venerable brand. And it also scored fifteen years’ worth of mobile technology patents. Some of them resulted in iconic products. And some of them…well, didn’t. I’m sure Palm leveraged some of the ideas in the patents you’re about to see. But it also protected a bunch of concepts unlike anything that has ever carried the Palm name–so far.

Bungie Aligns With Activision: R.I.P. Halo?

29. April 2010

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Two of the biggest names in video games, Activision and Bungie, announced an exclusive 10-year development deal today, stunning Halo fans and leaving Microsoft’s golden video game franchise at a crossroads.

The deal will maintain Bungie’s status as an independent game developer, but it will give Activision exclusive rights to publish a new gaming franchise on multiple platforms. Bungie manager Brian Jerrard told VG247 that almost the entire studio will concentrate on this new IP, and that Halo: Reach “is definitely Bungie’s final Halo game.”

That alone doesn’t mean the end of Halo, which transformed first-person shooters with innovations that are now industry standard — small things like regenerating health and big ideas like an automatic matchmaking system for online play. Microsoft owns the Halo IP, and that won’t change. Given the rabid enthusiasm Halo fans exude (we had over 1,000 responses to our Halo: Reach beta code giveaway), Microsoft will probably continue to create new Halo games in-house.

But in my eyes, Halo has always been about Bungie. They endlessly tinker with Halo’s multiplayer to keep things fresh and to refine the game based on how people are playing. The studio has cultivated a culture of fandom with an active forum and weekly updates on everything they do, and they keep a staff of community managers who are as obsessed with the series as its players.

Bungie is an independent studio, which means all of those resources and efforts will be going towards the new IP, except for a small group of employees who will support Halo: Reach after launch. If Microsoft intends to keep Halo alive with the same spirit it enjoys today, the company has some big shoes to fill.

Next-Gen iPhone Finder Found

29. April 2010

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My pals (and former PCWorld/Macworld colleagues) Brian Chen and Kim Zetter have quite a scoop over at Wired.com: They’ve located the guy who says he found Apple’s next-generation iPhone prototype in a Redwood City, California bar. According to a statement issued by his lawyer, he’s a 21-year-old taking a break from school who teaches kids to swim, has volunteered at a Chinese orphanage, and helps raise money for medical care for orphans in Kenya. And he’s sorry he accepted a payment from Gizmodo in return for access to the phone.

From the moment this story hit, it was obviously inevitable that we’d learn who this guy was–sooner or later, one way or another. Kudos to Brian and Kim for (two of the best tech reporters I know) for breaking the story.