If Windows 8 doesn’t include an app store, it’ll be a stunner.
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Earlier today, I put together a slideshow of 10 Android 3.0 Honeycomb apps for PC World. I don’t own a Motorola Xoom, so I used the Android Market website for research. It wasn’t easy finding apps that were designed with Google’s tablet OS in mind — there’s no dedicated section for them on the site — but I managed to eek out a list using a variety of search terms.
Then I noticed Kevin Tofel’s story for GigaOM on how the Android Market currently has 16 Honeycomb apps. He did it the easy way, by visiting the Market on a Xoom.
But here’s the problem: Kevin’s list doesn’t neatly overlap with mine. I found a few “3.0 and up” apps that don’t appear when you search directly on the tablet, such as TouchDown and Drawing Pad. I also missed a handful of apps that work fine on phones but are optimized for larger screens as well. Clearly, the system for finding tablet apps in the Android Market needs a lot of work.
Amazon’s move to build an app store for Android may have initially sounded like a good idea, but in the end it could end up screwing the developers that would make it all possible. How so? A little-publicized stipulation of its agreement with developers: the retailer sets the price.
Developers would still get to say what they’d like to sell their application for, an MSRP if you will. But Amazon does not guarantee that’s what its customers will pay. Instead, the retailer may choose to sell the app at a discount — just like Amazon does for other items on its site — or even give it away for free.
The answer, from Sonic Boom’s chief operating officer Josh Grant, left me scratching my head. Word, puzzle and card games are on the way, Grant said, and beyond that, they’re looking at book tie-in applications that “take advantage of the literary aspects of the device.” He avoided getting into the details of what exactly the Kindle is capable of.
Now, I’m not expecting that the Kindle should run Doom. Elsewhere, I’ve mused that Space Invaders would be awesome, but I’m not even sure that’s possible with the slow refresh rate of E-Ink displays and a processor originally intended for reading, not gaming. Still, it would’ve been nice if Sonic Boom shed some light on the matter.
It seems safe to say that if a game can be played on paper — or a product made of paper — the Kindle can handle it. But how far can and will developers take that ability? Will card games be limited to Solitaire, Freecell and their ilk, or will we see something as elaborate as online Texas Hold’em? (And would Amazon even allow that kind of bandwidth use?)
I’m also thinking we might see some board games. Electronic Arts, which Amazon has mentioned as a developer, already offers a bunch of Hasbro classics for mobile phones, including Scrabble, Trivial Pursuit and Monopoly. Those certainly seem better suited for the Kindle than Madden NFL 10 or Need for Speed: Shift.
Of course, none of these potential offerings will be as robust as what you can get with a smartphone or — dare I say it –a tablet, but as long as they enrich the Kindle experience, there’s nothing wrong with that.
Less than a week after Gameloft financier Alexandre de Rochefort said the company has “significantly cut” investments in Android, Gameloft issued a press release saying, essentially, that it still loves Google’s mobile platform, and wants to make sweet, sweet “High Definition games” on it.
In particular, Gameloft will develop titles for second-generation Android phones such as Motorola’s Droid and Sony’s Ericsson Xperia X10.
When I previously outlined the problems with Android gaming, I said there’s room for improvement, particularly with multi-touch technology in the Droid. It’s worth noting that both the phones Gameloft mentions allow for 3D games as well — something Gameloft excels in with the racer Asphalt 5 and the Grand Theft Auto clone Gangstar: West Coast Hustle.
So it appears that Rochefort’s statement about Android investment was misinterpreted, but remember that he also knocked the Android’s ability to actually sell games. His words: “It is not as neatly done as on the iPhone. Google has not been very good to entice customers to actually buy products. On Android nobody is making significant revenue.”
That issue isn’t addressed in Gameloft’s latest press release, but I imagine there’s a chicken-and-egg theory in play. If developers take the first step of making high quality games on Android, phone manufacturers can market gaming as a key feature in their products, attracting more game sales, which in turn brings in more interest from developers. So I’m glad Gameloft isn’t bailing out on a mobile gaming platform that has potential to grow.
Instead, Gameloft finance director Alexandre de Rochefort declared (via Reuters) that the company’s got beef with Android. “We have significantly cut our investment in Android platform, just like … many others,” he said at an investor conference in Barcelona. He explained that the Android Market is just too weak compared to the iPhone’s App Store, on which Gameloft sells 400 times more games.
“Google has not been very good to entice customers to actually buy products,” Rochefort said. “On Android nobody is making significant revenue.”
I’m not an Android phone owner, so I can’t speak at length about the Android Market experience. From my understanding, it’s no great shakes. But as a gamer, I can spot a few things that are holding Android back.
For starters, Android 2.0 was the platform’s first version to support multi-touch, a vital feature for first-person shooters such as Wolfenstein 3D or the excellent Eliminate Pro. In Gameloft’s case, no multi-touch means no Assassin’s Creed 2 or Gangstar: West Coast Hustle, both of which rely on multi-touch controls.
Then you’ve got the low application storage limits found in most Android hardware to date. Even the latest, Motorola’s Droid, only allows for 256 MB of app storage. As Android and Me notes, that rules out a game like Myst, which on the iPhone occupies 727 MB.
I also think there’s a silent killer at hand in the form of emulators. I sampled a friend’s Droid last weekend, and I couldn’t believe that he could play classic Nintendo, Genesis and Super NES games on his phone. That’s an asset if you’re a consumer, but I don’t doubt that emulators cannibalize game sales in the Android Market.
To top it off, I don’t get the sense that Android phone manufacturers and carriers are marketing video games as a big use. Check out the pinwheel on Verizon’s Droid Web site — gaming barely gets a mention.
The sad thing is that most of the points I mention are being addressed, or are at least fixable. Gameloft has every right to complain, as developers do, but maybe the company is bailing out at precisely the wrong time.
I’m a long-time fan of the Squeezebox and have been continually impressed by feature additions over the last three years. Today an email popped up in my inbox announcing another firmware update and some major feature upgrades. Most importantly, Logitech is introducing an App Gallery that will organize all of the Squeezebox service options in the now-familiar “App Store” format. It also appears that Logitech may have finally corrected the way it allows Squeezebox users to access their own music collection versus streaming services. Those two functions have had separate top-level menus until now, but it appears that is changing.
As I have an older Squeezebox version, I’m curious to see how some of the features are implemented. For example, on the website describing the new App Gallery, there are apps listed for Flickr and Facebook. My screen real estate would not seem to support those features. Also, while details of the new firmware mention that Squeezebox Duet owners don’t have to switch between SqueezeNetwork and SqueezeCenter menus anymore (streaming versus personal music collection), there is no mention of earlier Squeezebox hardware. I’m looking forward to checking these upgrades out at home tonight.
Meanwhile, Logitech has other Squeezebox news out today too. People who buy one of the new Squeezebox Radios (yes, they are now available), will get “early access to the new Queen Absolute Greatest Hits album before it hits stores.” So for any Bohemian Rhapsody fans, go pick up your new Squeezebox Radio now. Or, you could always hold out for the December launch of the new Squeezebox Touch.
(This post republished from Zatz Not Funny.)
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