Wednesday, May 11, 2011

GigaOMTheAppleBlog · Apple and iOS News, Tips and Reviews (13 сообщений)

TheAppleBlog    GigaOMTheAppleBlog · Apple and iOS News, Tips and Reviews
рекомендовать друзьям >>

  • Carousel Brings Instagram to the Mac Desktop in Style

    Instagram has yet to officially crossover to any platform other than the iPhone, but that hasn’t stopped third-party developers from trying to fill the gaps. One app that does just that is Mobelux’s Carousel, a new Mac program that brings your Instagram stream to the desktop.

    Carousel doesn’t allow you to use photos or take pictures and upload them from your desktop, but it does let you view your stream, view the stream of other Instagram users, and like and comment on individual photos. You can also view existing comments and likes, and see a larger version of images in the stream using the instant preview function built in to OS X.

    You can also easily save any photos to your hard drive, copy URLs and view photos in your default browser. Carousel even provides location information when users check-in with the photos they upload to Instagram, and access to the Popular stream of public images as well. In short, Carousel gives you all the functional features you could ask for short of image posting, which is not yet supported by the Instagram API, and therefore not available to third-party developers. Mobelux co-founder Jeff Rock told me that if Instagram decides to allow photo posting, the Carousel team will definitely consider an adding the feature at a later date.

    But Carousel doesn’t just do what Instagram does on the Mac in a workmanlike fashion; it actually looks really good doing it, too. The minimal single column interface displays a waterfall of your feeds, and does so using one of four themes (bonus points if you can identify the source of the theme names). The themes are well designed, and all of them look terrific with the old-school polaroid-type photo frames used to display each picture. Carousel also can auto-update with a frequency of your choosing, and display a dock badge and growl notification when new photos come in.

    Rock told me that the design was key to Carousel’s creation. The app was created because Mobelux “wanted an elegant solution to view our feeds on the Mac.” He also articulated that it was particularly important that the app “took up a minimal desktop footprint, had character and felt wonderful to use.” It does indeed meet those standards.

    Right now, you can download a free trial of Carousel via the Mobelux site. The trial lasts 15 days, and provides unrestricted functionality during that time. Carousel currently costs $4.99 to purchase, but that’s listed as a temporary, half-off introductory price. Mobelux has also announced that Carousel will soon be available through the Mac App Store, and Rock told me that pricing will always be the same no matter where you purchase.

    Related content from GigaOM Pro (subscription req'd):

    The cloud-optimized networks of tomorrow run on Brocade Ethernet fabrics today. Assess Your Cloud Readiness. Download Forrester Study »


  • Google's Victory is Not Apple's Defeat

    In a few weeks at WWDC, Apple fans can expect an exciting Keynote. Likely topics include OS X Lion, iCloud, and iOS 5, as well as news on the state of Apple and its products and platforms. In the past, that has included data on the ever-increasing number of iOS devices sold and growth of the platform, and the same can be expected this year; just don’t expect any more comparisons between iOS and Android on activations.

    Tuesday, at the Google I/O Developer Conference, among announcements about a unified Android OS and Google music storage, there was also new information on Android’s growth, including a new record of 400,000 activations of per day. If past pronouncements apply, those activations only include devices that use Google services, with the vast majority being smartphones, not that it matters no matter how the numbers are counted. Android has passed iOS( not just the iPhone), in terms of sheer volume, for good.

    Apple reported approximately 26 million iOS devices sold for the quarter ending in March. That number includes 16.2 million iPhones and 4.7 million iPads, and an estimated 5 million iPod touch devices. The latter is estimated because Apple does not break out iPods by model, but the company has repeatedly stated more than half of iPod sales are the iPod touch. In terms of activations, that works out to around 289,000 activations per day; far below Google’s latest numbers.

    Of course, iPad supplies were constrained during the last quarter, but selling an iPad to everyone that wants one won’t change the numbers, either. By the end of June, Google should easily be activating 450,000 devices per day. Even assuming Apple sells 9 million iPads, 20 million iPhones, and 6 million iPod touches, that works out to 35 million iOS devices, or only 389,000 activations per day.

    It’s over; Google and Android have won, at least in market share. But that’s not the whole story, at least not going by Google’s Android numbers from yesterday.

    • 100 million activated Android devices
    • 200,000 free and paid applications available in Android Market
    • 4.5 billion applications installed from Android Market
    • 400,000 new Android devices activated every day

    To put those numbers in perspective, it took Apple three years to sell 100 million iOS devices, compared to 2.5 years for Google and Android. It took Apple 22 months to reach 200,000 apps and 4.5 billion downloads, 30 months for Google to do the same. For whatever reason, the Android Market has been slow to launch internationally, in about half as many countries as Apple, but both companies cover the major markets. More importantly, what’s missing from Android’s bullet list of accomplishments is revenue data.

    According to IHS, app revenue for 2010 clearly favors Apple’s App Store by an enormous margin, and apparently there are no shocking numbers from Google to suggest that’s changed much yet. However, even should the Android Market see revenue growth in line with market share, it won’t matter to those using iOS devices. As was reported last month, Apple has paid out $2 billion in revenue to developers, eight months after it paid out the first billion. It’s hard to argue against the iOS platform being self-sustaining at this point, and that’s what should matter to developers and consumers. Unlike during the 90s with the Mac, iOS users won’t have to worry about finding apps and services in the future, no matter how many activations Android reaches per day.

    Related content from GigaOM Pro (subscription req'd):

    The cloud-optimized networks of tomorrow run on Brocade Ethernet fabrics today. Assess Your Cloud Readiness. Download Forrester Study »


  • Apple Could Win the Cloud Music Game Thanks to Google and Amazon

    Google announced its new cloud music service Tuesday, and Amazon revealed its own Cloud Player in late March. At this point, Apple is really the last major player to make its move. But judging by the offerings so far, that might work to Apple’s advantage.

    Both Google and Amazon have decided that seeking special licensing for cloud music playback isn’t necessary, and that they’re allowed to offer their services without seeking any additional consent or agreements from major record labels. Google has announced that it will take down any music found to be in violation of copyright agreements, in much the same way it does with YouTube content. Amazon, likewise, has taken a similar stance, arguing that they “do not need a license to make Cloud Player available” since saving files to Cloud Drive “is the same as if a customer were to save their music to an external hard drive or even iTunes.”

    There’s definitely a sound logic to that argument, but even so, Amazon seems to be rushing to smooth things over with its music content partners, according to the Wall Street Journal . Which makes sense, because Amazon also wants to control the sales channel for music, as well as the means of its storage and playback.

    While Amazon and Google may be trying to make nice with major labels behind the scenes, the “shoot first, ask questions later” approach hasn’t won them any allies. And, in fact, it could send those content providers rushing into Apple’s arms.

    Apple is said to be still in talks with the four major record labels ahead of the launch of its own cloud music service, and in this case, patience may prove to be a virtue. No doubt the labels are reluctant to give up any additional revenue they might be able to garner through cloud-based offerings, but Apple is now in a unique position with regard to negotiating proper licenses, since Google and Amazon have both taken a firm, public stance on the other side of the fence. Simply put, Apple is now the only game in town.

    Even if Apple can’t reach a favorable agreement with record labels, it can still easily go the route of Amazon and Google before it and declare cloud music services are well within its existing rights. But while that’s an option, it’s one that Apple shouldn’t have to exercise. Instead, it can use its leverage as the music industry’s biggest current distribution channel, and the reluctance of Amazon and Google to play nice to force an agreement that would see it be able to offer a label-friendly solution which would ultimately probably benefit consumers. That could take the shape of fewer restrictions on how and when music can be access and transferred between devices, and make it possible to purchase a wider variety of music that’s immediately available directly from the cloud.

    Apple’s service will look and work better than that of its competitors, at a minimum. And if it can also launch soon (like at WWDC next month) and with the full backing of the four major record labels, it’ll best its rivals in all categories, and continue to dominate mobile music.

    Related content from GigaOM Pro (subscription req'd):

    The cloud-optimized networks of tomorrow run on Brocade Ethernet fabrics today. Assess Your Cloud Readiness. Download Forrester Study »


  • The Danger of Playing in Apple's Walled Garden

    Every so often a news item comes along that reinforces the downside of building your business on someone else’s platform, and this week’s poster child is iFlowReader, an e-book app for the iPhone and iPad. The company behind the app announced Wednesday that it’s shutting its doors for good, and it puts the blame for its demise squarely on Apple and its new 30-percent levy on in-app sales. The benefits of getting into bed with Apple are obvious: access to a huge universe of motivated users and built-in payment handling. But the downsides for those who play inside Apple’s walled garden should be just as obvious — namely, you lose control over some fundamental aspects of your business.

    The bitterness that iFlowReader feels about Apple suddenly changing the rules of the app game spills out of every line in the company’s blog post, in which the company advises users that it will be “going out of business” as of May 31, and that this is a “sad day for innovation.” The post goes on to say that:

    Apple is giving us the boot by making it financially impossible for us to survive. They want all of the eBook business on iOS and since they have the unilateral power to get it, we are out of business and the iFlow Reader is dead. We put our faith in Apple and they screwed us.

    The company notes that one of the other culprits in its financial demise was the “agency model” that many book publishers have adopted for sales, which gives the publisher the right to set the price for their e-books, and gives any seller (such as iFlowReader) a flat, 30-percent commission. The rise of the agency model is also primarily Apple’s doing, since offering that model to publishers was a competitive move against Amazon and the dominant position it had in the e-book market.

    The combination of the agency model and Apple’s 30-percent fee on in-app transactions made it financially impossible for iFlowReader to survive, the company says, since the 30-percent charge “is all of our gross [profit] margin and then some.” And the founders — who say they spent more than a million dollars developing the app — also allege that Apple knew it would eventually kill iFlowReader’s business model, even while it was approving the application for sale in the Apple store.

    Apple can change the rules at any time and they did. Sadly they must have known full well that they were going to do this. Apple’s iBooks was already in development when we talked to them and they certainly must have known that their future plans would doom us to failure no matter how good our product was. We never really had a chance.

    Apple is hardly the only company that has destabilized or even killed a startup’s business model by making such changes: Another e-book player, the Lendle book-sharing service, got a nasty shock recently when Amazon suddenly changed the terms of its API and the service stopped functioning. And Twitter has also raised the ire of developers by enforcing restrictions on the use of its data and shutting down certain apps. But no one controls the purse strings of a startup’s business quite like Apple does when you enter the App Store.

    As some observers have pointed out, iFlowReader would still be alive if it had also developed an HTML5 version of its service for the open web, rather than putting all of its eggs into Apple’s basket. But the lure of the iOS platform is great. The iPhone and iPad are huge growth engines, and apps that can tap into that have become massively successful almost overnight. Unfortunately, as media companies of all kinds have discovered, that kind of potential success comes at a great price, which is why some publishers such as Fortune are experimenting with web-based services instead of just apps.

    Would iFlowReader have failed even without Apple’s new fees? Perhaps. But the fact that the company changed the rules for content-based app makers so dramatically probably pushed it over the edge, and theoretically it could do the same to anyone. That’s just the nature of playing Apple’s game — the house always wins.

    Post and thumbnail photos courtesy of Flickr user Giuseppe Bognanni

    Related content from GigaOM Pro (subscription req'd):

    The cloud-optimized networks of tomorrow run on Brocade Ethernet fabrics today. Assess Your Cloud Readiness. Download Forrester Study »


  • Nuance Brags Amid Talk of Apple Deal

    Nuance announced Wednesday that it has already signed on 2,500 devs to its Mobile Developer Program in its first 90 days, with dozens of voice-enabled apps already created through the program. This news is curiously well-timed, amid rumors that Nuance and Apple are working out a deal that would see Nuance’s voice recognition tech more closely integrated in Apple hardware and software.

    Late last year, rumors swirled that Apple had acquired Nuance, which makes Dragon voice recognition software. The rumors stemmed from a misstatement by Apple co-founder Steve Wozniak, who mistakenly said that Apple had acquired Nuance when it fact, he meant to reference the Nuance-powered Siri app the company acquired in 2010.

    Siri is just one of the many apps available powered by Nuance’s Dragon Mobile technology, which is a best-of-breed voice recognition software solution. Earlier this week, TechCrunch reignited rumors of a deal between Nuance and Apple, though this time it may or may not be acquisition that’s on the table. It might instead take the form of a partnership that allows Apple to use Nuance tech natively on its devices and in its data centers, according to recent reports.

    Why doesn’t Apple just buy Nuance? Well, according to TechCrunch, Nuance CEO Paul Ricci is a tough negotiator. And Nuance isn’t a startup you can just buy without batting an eye. It’s a publicly traded company that’s currently worth around $6 billion. Apple has enormous cash reserves, but even still, Nuance would be an expensive purchase.

    Nuance’s announcement today just reinforces why negotiating to purchase the company or even license its Dragon software for broad inclusion in Apple tech might be fairly tricky. The platform is clearly doing well, and is successfully transitioning into mobile computing. The press release detailing today’s Mobile Developer Program milestone talks about both Android and iOS development, but goes on to cite only iPhone and iPad apps as examples of the Dragon SDK in use. The release appears designed to capitalize on the recent talk of an Apple partnership, and seems aimed at reinforcing Nuance’s growing value to the iOS platform. In fact, it could be a strategic bargaining move by Ricci if his reputation as a shrewd negotiator is accurate.

    TechCrunch reports that Apple is planning on running Nuance software and hardware in its new NC data center, in order to provide better a better voice command experience for users, and because it will allow Apple to keep tight control over that data without sending it out to third-party servers. If Apple could also offer Dragon Mobile tech to devs as a built-in iOS API, that would definitely expand the reach and usefulness of voice control on the platform.

    Related content from GigaOM Pro (subscription req'd):

    The cloud-optimized networks of tomorrow run on Brocade Ethernet fabrics today. Assess Your Cloud Readiness. Download Forrester Study »


  • Most Popular iPad 2 Model Is Also the Most Expensive

    Apple offers six separate models of its iPad 2 (nine if you count the CDMA and GSM 3G versions separately), but more than half of iPad buyers choose between only two options: The 64 GB 3G iPad 2 and the 16 GB Wi-Fi only model are the consumer favorites in some regions.

    Research firm Context (via V3) compiled a report about the state of the tablet market in western Europe, and found that the 64 GB 3G iPad 2 has accounted for a third of all iPad 2 sales since launch. The next closest model is the 16 GB WiFi-only iPad 2, which was responsible for 22 percent of all sales.

    It seems likely that iPad 2 buyers are approaching model choice with an “all or nothing” mentality, opting either for the fully loaded version or the absolute barebones configuration. And by a significant margin, many appear to be choosing the more expensive option of the two.

    There are a number of factors that could contribute to the 64 GB 3G iPad’s popularity. First, after one update cycle has already passed, buyers are more aware of what kind of storage and connectivity needs they have for tablet computing. They’re also now aware that iPads do a very good job of retaining much of their value for resale. Finally, it may be the case that Apple stocked store shelves with more of the 64 GB 3G and 16 GB Wi-FI models, anticipating higher sales of those, and that customers who waited in line or encountered supply constraints of other variants were happy to take what they could get.

    The report from Context also found that the iPad represented 80 percent of tablet devices sold during the first quarter of 2011, but that the percentage fell by five points compared to the previous quarter, due to increased popularity of Android devices. But some of the biggest early names in Android tablets (such as the Motorola Xoom) aren’t the ones that will catch on with consumers, according to Context analyst Salman Chaudry. Devices that received much less pre-release fanfare, like Acer’s Android-powered Iconia A500, are likely to do better according to Chaudry.

    However the tablet market shapes up for the rest of 2011, Apple is sure to remain on top of the heap. It’ll be interesting to see if customers continue to flock to the most and least expensive models of its iPad 2, or whether that distribution will change over time.

    Related content from GigaOM Pro (subscription req'd):

    The cloud-optimized networks of tomorrow run on Brocade Ethernet fabrics today. Assess Your Cloud Readiness. Download Forrester Study »


  • Quick Fix: MobileMe Gallery Video on Apple TV

    Use just a MobileMe name to add an account to the Apple TV

    For Apple TV owners that also subscribe to MobileMe, Gallery is an underrated feature. By uploading pictures and video on the go, there’s no need to sync an iPhone or camera with iPhoto at home before enjoying content on a television. MobileMe Gallery and the Apple TV just work, at least most of the time.

    After upgrading my broadband service, I had to reset the Apple TV to get it on the network, after which I logged on to MobileMe without issue. After looking at some pictures from a day trip, I tried viewing some video. Instead of a home movie, I saw a dialog box that said, “an error occurred loading this content. Try again later.” I did, many times, always getting the same error. While it’s important to remember that video for the Apple TV must be H.264 or MPEG-4, this was video recorded with an iPhone and uploaded to MobileMe.

    At first, I thought the problem might be with MobileMe, but it turned out to be user error, though I think Apple shares a little blame. When adding the MobileMe account to the Apple TV, I inadvertently used my MobileMe e-mail address, not just the user name. Nonetheless, it was accepted, and Gallery photos worked fine, but not video. Removing and re-adding the account with just the user name solved this odd problem, and should work for anyone else experiencing the same curious issue.

    Related content from GigaOM Pro (subscription req'd):

    The cloud-optimized networks of tomorrow run on Brocade Ethernet fabrics today. Assess Your Cloud Readiness. Download Forrester Study »


  • 9 Great Alternatives to Skype for VoIP and Video Chat

    While Darrell thinks that Microsoft buying Skype in a $8.5 billion deal is probably good news for video chat users, there will probably be some Skype customers who are worried about the implications of the acquisition and may be looking for alternatives. While there’s probably no one service that provides a feature-for-feature replacement for Skype, there are plenty that offer great VoIP and video calling services, some of which are even better than Skype’s. Here is a list of some of our favorites:

    VoIP/Phone service

    • Google Voice. Voice is Google’s phone service, which launched to much fanfare in March 2009. It provides free PC-to-PC voice and video calls, free PC-to-phone calls within the U.S. and cheap calls elsewhere (for users in the U.S. only). One of Google Voice’s most useful features (again, only available to U.S. residents) is that it enables users to have one number that they can use anywhere — any calls placed to that number will ring all of the users’ configured phones. The service also provides a range of useful additional features, such as voicemail, SMS, conference calling, call screening and transcription of voicemail messages.
    • Vbuzzer. A VoIP and IM service that, unlike Skype, is based on open protocols like XMPP and SIP. It offers free PC-to-PC calls, as well as paid-for PC-to-phone calls, with typically cheaper rates than Skype. It also features voicemail, call forwarding, caller ID, web conferencing and fax service.
    • VoxOx. VoxOx is trying to be an “all-in-one” messaging app for both the desktop and mobile devices. It combines phone calls, IM, SMS, video chat, conference calling and even fax. It also provides similar “one number anywhere” functionality to Google Voice, and outgoing calls can be placed at competitive rates. While Charlie didn’t particularly like the Mac client when he reviewed it back in January, finding some shortcomings, it’s worth a look. The iPhone app is interesting because rather than relying on VoIP, it uses callbacks — the service can ring you on any convenient nearby phone line.
    • Viber. iPhone users looking for a way to make free VoIP calls should take a look at Viber, a VoIP app that allows iPhone-to-iPhone calling over 3G and Wi-Fi connections. The app is free, runs in the background, doesn't have any ads and won't charge you anything to make calls. Android and BlackBerry apps are apparently in the works, which would extend the app’s reach significantly.
    • Grasshopper. Looking for a step up from Skype to a more business-oriented virtual phone system? Grasshopper provides many of the features found in expensive office PBX systems for a fraction of the cost, including support for multiple users, each with their own extension, individual greetings, voicemail, web access and notifications by email or text message, as well as the ability to have local or toll-free numbers for people to call you on. Charlie was impressed by the product and its slick web interface when he reviewed it back in 2009. The type of advanced functionality you get comes at a higher cost than consumer-focused offering like Google Voice and Skype, however, with a range of plans available.
    • 8×8 Virtual Office Pro/Solo.  8×8 provides another useful VoIP-based virtual business phone system. It’s available in two editions, Virtual Office Pro for businesses requiring multiple extensions, and Solo for individuals (see Charlie’s recent review). The system includes business numbers, voicemail, call waiting, music on hold, caller ID, three-way calling and the ability to record calls for storage as digital audio files. It costs $49.99 per extension per month for the Pro Edition or $7.99 per month for the Solo edition.

    Video Chat

    While some of the options listed above, like Google Voice,  provide video calling as part of the services they offer, there are also some dedicated video chat apps:

    • Tinychat. For multiuser video chats, Tinychat is great. It’s dead simple to use, requires no login, and has a clean interface. It's Flash-based, so it should work in most browsers and up to 12 people can join a video chat simultaneously. The basic service is free.
    • ooVoo. ooVoo also provides free multiuser (up to six people simultaneously) video chat, and has clients available for Mac, PC and a wide range of mobile devices. It even allows for high-quality video calling over 3G wireless networks.
    • FaceTime. Apple’s video chat application is no longer just for iPhone users. With the launch of FaceTime for Mac in February, it works on Macs and any iOS device with a forward-facing camera, it makes it possible to place Mac-to-Mac, Mac-to-iPhone/iPod touch/iPad, and iPhone/iPod touch/iPad -to-iPhone/iPod touch/iPad calls. Video quality is high, supporting up to 720p resolution on more recent Macs.

    What are your favorite alternatives to Skype?

    Photo courtesy Flickr user DanBrady

    Related content from GigaOM Pro (subscription req'd):

    The cloud-optimized networks of tomorrow run on Brocade Ethernet fabrics today. Assess Your Cloud Readiness. Download Forrester Study »


  • Sandvox 2.0 Makes Push-Button Publishing Even Easier

    Sandvox 2.0Karelia Software released Sandvox 2.0 Tuesday, a major upgrade to its website building software for the Mac. I had a chance to get a walkthrough of the new release from Dan Wood, president of Karelia Software, and the new capabilities are impressive. I’ve been told that there are more than five dozen new features and major improvements. Some items of immediate interest will be the much more capable and flexible image handling, improved integration with a number of social media and web services, and support for some advanced web technologies.

    “Sandvox 2 makes it stunningly easy to create powerful websites,” says Dan Wood. “We’ve made literally dozens of improvements to give our customers the easiest to use website building tool available on the Mac today. Sandvox 2 is far more flexible and a quantum leap forward for our customers.”

    Drag-and-Drop Website Design

    You can drag and drop images into place on the page and resize them directly by pulling on the corner handles. Text flow around the image and other parameters are adjusted by using the inspector, which also allows for setting up image galleries with lightbox overlays using jQuery animations. All very slick.

    Sandvox 2.0 also supports a wide variety of widgets and “objects” that can be dropped into any page. Sites can easily integrate with Facebook (including Facebook Comments), Twitter, Disqus, IntenseDebate and more. YouTube videos can be embedded just by pasting the URL in the YouTube widget and you can insert Amazon product listings with images pulled directly from Amazon too. Under the hood, Sandvox 2.0 sites support HTML5 video and audio tags and jQuery. Sandvox is also smart enough to provide a Flash-based player for browsers that don’t support the <video> tag.

    While the popularity of web-based content management systems is growing, Sandvox provides an excellent website creation tool for those that want deep integration with the media and other tools on their Mac. It’s a good compromise between the extremes of using a zero-install online service like or with little flexibility and the technical know-how of installing your own CMS on a hosted service where that flexibility comes with a steep learning curve. According to Wood:

    Our customers don’t need to know a lick of HTML, CSS, jQuery, JavaScript, HTML5 or any other technical stuff to drag-and-drop their way to a cool website. That said, people who do know a bit of HTML can use their knowledge to build a powerful site, without being bogged down in the details of putting the whole website together.

    Pricing and Availability

    Sandvox 2.0 requires Mac OS X version 10.5 (Leopard) or higher and is currently available in English and French (additional languages coming soon). Sandvox is available through Karelia’s online store.

    Sandvox 2.0 is regularly priced at US$77 and the upgrade price is US$47. Introductory pricing through May 20, 2011 is discounted by $10 ($67 and $37). Anyone who purchased Sandvox after January 5, 2011 is eligible to receive a free upgrade. New licenses, upgrades, household licenses and site licenses are all available directly from Karelia Software.

    Related content from GigaOM Pro (subscription req'd):

    The cloud-optimized networks of tomorrow run on Brocade Ethernet fabrics today. Assess Your Cloud Readiness. Download Forrester Study »


  • Senate Hearing: Apple, Google and the Future of Mobile Privacy

    Following up on the concerns he raised about Apple gathering location data for iPhone users, Senator Al Franken (D-Minn.) chaired the Senate Judiciary Subcommittee meeting today called “Protecting Mobile Privacy: Your Smartphones, Tablets, Cell Phones and Your Privacy.” Apple VP of Software Technology Bud Tribble and Google Director of Government Relations and Public Policy Alan Davidson provided testimony, along with a number of other industry and government witnesses.

    Sen. Franken kicked off the hearing by assuring those in attendance that the aim of the proceedings was not to bring an end to location services. Instead, Franken suggested that the purpose of the discussions was to ensure customers are protected as we move forward with mobile technology.

    Limited Responsibility Surrounding Data Sharing

    The first panel — which included Jessica Rich, deputy director of the FTC’s Bureau of Consumer Protection, and Jason Weinstein, deputy assistant attorney general of the Criminal Division of the U.S. Department of Justice — addressed existing legal and legislative consumer protections and what gaps need to be filled to ensure better consumer protection.

    Weinstein noted that once companies have access to consumer info (once permission is granted to Apple to use your location info, for instance), there are currently no legal restrictions in place to prevent that data from being shared with other third-party businesses (there are, however, restrictions preventing unjustified sharing with government agencies). He also noted that federal law does not currently require a company to disclose a data breach, such as the one recently experienced by Sony, and that we need regulations governing both of these situations.

    When to Gather Info, and How to Make Users Aware

    Rich emphasized tackling consumer privacy concerns early on in product design. She stressed that companies should gather only the minimum necessary amount of information and keep it only when absolutely necessary. She also expressed a need for clearer privacy agreements that users could more easily understand. Rich also suggested that visual cues such as icons could be used to make clear what’s being shared when.

    Tribble echoed that statement during the second panel. He suggested that, rather than requiring individual apps to provide privacy policies that users must read and agree to before they install the app, Apple preferred that apps use icons to indicate what information is being shared when. As an example, he cited the arrow that appears in an iPhone’s menu bar when location services are being actively used.

    The problem with this system is that it has to make compromises so that it doesn’t confuse the user or clutter the interface. Sen. Franken asked Tribble why Apple didn’t make users aware of all info being shared with apps (like calendar and address book data), instead of just location data. Tribble said that Apple felt location data was particularly sensitive, and that creating notices and visual cues for each type of data would quickly overwhelm the device UI.

    Franken suggested that Apple implement a system whereby users are presented with a screen that shows a user all the info an app will be sharing, which is what Google Android does. When asked, Davidson admitted that it did indeed work for Google. Tribble didn’t respond.

    A Starting Point for Transparency

    Despite lots of back-and-forth between the tech giant representatives and senators, the star of the show was arguably Ashkan Soltani, an independent researcher who has worked with The Wall Street Journal  on mobile privacy investigations. Soltani cut through the political posturing and corporate deflections to clearly articulate what’s needed for mobile privacy regulation: more transparency and better definition of the concepts involved.

    Soltani pointed out that not only are consumers repeatedly surprised by the information apps and platforms have access to, but platform providers themselves are also occasionally caught off guard by info they’re gathering (he cited Google’s problems with collecting Wi-Fi info during Street View surveys, and Apple’s location storage cache). Platforms need to take adequate steps to make absolutely clear (to themselves and to users) what information is being gathered at any given time, and for what purpose. The concern, according to Soltani, is that there is no mechanism for Apple devices to disclose to users that it can share customer info with anyone once it has permission to gather it.

    According to Soltani, we should focus on making clear what mobile privacy involves on the level of even the wording used to describe it. How exactly do you define “opt-in?” Is it enough to provide users with a pre-checked checkbox? Isn’t that better described as “opt-out,” as Sen. Franken suggested at the hearing? Also, how to definite “location” and “anonymized?” Soltani noted that even though Apple says it only gathers anonymized data, since police departments have been able to use that info to identify suspects by associating it with their devices, isn’t it technically not anonymous?

    This is likely only the opening salvo of a long and drawn-out process that will ultimately affect how users, platform providers and app developers treat mobile data, including (but not limited to) location data. Political will is there, and judging by the responses made by Apple and Google representatives today, private enterprise is eager to be at the table, too, since allaying customer concerns are in their best interest. Here’s hoping something productive comes of the apparent shared interest in the subject.

    Related content from GigaOM Pro (subscription req'd):

    The cloud-optimized networks of tomorrow run on Brocade Ethernet fabrics today. Assess Your Cloud Readiness. Download Forrester Study »


  • Hands On With Adobe's Photoshop Touch Apps

    Adobe’s three Photoshop Touch apps, which the company previewed last month, went live in the App Store early Tuesday morning. Eazel, Adobe Nav and Color Lava all offer experiences that connect in to desktop installations of Photoshop in order to enhance the use of that software in some way. Here’s a look at how they work, and how they might figure into your Photoshop workflow.

    Color Lava ($2.99)

    Finding the right color or color scheme for design work or image editing in Photoshop can be tricky, and may be especially so for artists used to mixing paint using traditional media. Color Lava attempts to mimic this experience using the iPad’s touch interface, allowing you to create and store color palettes and instantly set the foreground color in your desktop Photoshop installation.

    The app provides a color wheel featuring the three primary and three tertiary colors, as well as shades of black and grey. You also have access to a virtual water tray for cleaning your digital “brush,” and to help you blend the colors you already have on your working palette. You can mix colors and tap different areas to create a five-color scheme which you can save to the app for later use. You can also use photos from your camera roll or other on-device albums to draw colors for use in schemes.

    Color Lava works well, is simple and self-explanatory, and even provides some interesting visual enhancements like animated ripples in your water tray and 180 degree rotation support (though only landscape modes are supported). Once you set up your Photoshop connection (you must be on the same Wi-Fi network), setting your foreground color is incredibly easy.

    Adobe Nav ($1.99)

    This is the app that has the most integration with the desktop version of Photoshop. Adobe Nav essentially provides an iPad-based toolbar for your desktop Photoshop install. It has all the tools you’ll normally find in your left-hand PS toolbar column, and includes the ability to edit the configuration to include any commands available to that toolbar. The app also provides a foreground/background color switcher, a one-button Screen Mode toggle, and a one-button zoom to return the image to Actual Pixels magnification.

    The ability to completely customize which commands are available on your 4 x 4 grid makes it very easy to line up your most commonly used Photoshop tools for quick and easy access. You can have Gradient Fill and Fill Bucket side-by-side, for instance, instead of having them as an either/or nested toggle the way they are in a default Photoshop installation. The one-touch commands Adobe provides are also great choices, although I’d appreciate the ability to bring up a basic color picker in the app itself, or to customize which zoom magnifications appear by default.

    Adobe Nav also provides a thumbnail viewer that allows you to switch between your currently open Photoshop documents with a single tap. This is a terrific addition for Photoshop users who often have many files open at once. Trying to cycle through open images to find one only by name is a chore, and this eliminates that completely.

    Adobe Eazel ($4.99)

    Of the three apps, Eazel represents the most innovative from a control perspective. The app provides nothing but a blank canvas by default, and you bring up controls by tapping the screen with five fingers simultaneously and then lifting all fingers except the one associated with the tool you want to alter. These include color, brush size, opacity and settings.

    The interace is very different, but it is also surprisingly easy to get a handle on. I’m by no means an artist, yet I was able to come with the reasonable facsimile of some kind of fruit you see in the screens. The feel is decidedly watercolor, and there’s no way to change that, but it’s a good tool for sketching out ideas or for doing some amazing digital painting for more capable artists.

    Eazel’s connectivity with the desktop version of Photoshop is limited to the ability to push images from the iPad app to Photoshop wirelessly, preserving layers (though only a foreground and background layer are currently possible in the app). Even though you can’t manipulate the image on the iPad after its sent to Photoshop, it’s a handy function for users who want to create on mobile and edit on desktop. Also, it’s early days and really just serves to hint at what Adobe’s Photoshop Touch API is capable of.

    Good Now, Better Later

    Adobe’s apps are impressive. They integrate easily with the desktop version of Adobe Photoshop (so long as you have Version 12.0.4 or higher), and they make working with the software either easier or more interesting. Color Lava and Adobe Nav in particular should find their way into the every day workflows of many iPad-toting Photoshop professionals and amateur enthusiasts. Eazel’s appeal is more limited, but it will probably do well among those who have a need for it.

    The apps are simple, easy to connect (and they automatically reconnect upon reopening after a few uses), and they show how powerful Adobe’s Photoshop Touch API is. In addition to being useful tools on their own, they also whet the appetite for what’s to come. Tight desktop/second screen integration will be one of the ways in which major traditional software companies ride the post-PC wave, and the first crop of Photoshop Touch apps are a great example of that integration.

    Related content from GigaOM Pro (subscription req'd):

    The cloud-optimized networks of tomorrow run on Brocade Ethernet fabrics today. Assess Your Cloud Readiness. Download Forrester Study »


  • Microsoft's Skype Buy Could Be Good News for Apple Video Chat

    Microsoft announced today that it will acquire Skype for $8.5 billion in cash. Skype will form a new business division within Microsoft, and Skype CEO Tony Bates will become president of said division. Despite Microsoft’s position as a longtime Apple competitor, this deal could improve the state of video chat on Apple devices.

    Microsoft, will, of course, most likely prioritize its own software and hardware when it comes to new Skype features and improvements. Redmond has already announced that it plans to bring Skype to Xbox and Kinect, Windows Phone 7 and other Windows devices, and that it will also be integrated with existing Microsoft communities like Lync, Outlook and Messenger. But Microsoft is also quick to note it will “continue to invest in and support Skype clients on non-Microsoft platforms.”

    There’s plenty of reason to believe that isn’t just an empty statement. Microsoft might erode its existing Skype subscriber base by ignoring or closing down support for platforms where the service is popular, including Apple devices. And Microsoft has been good about creating and maintaining software for Apple hardware recently; Microsoft Office for Mac 2011 is a huge improvement over its predecessor, and finally brought Outlook to OS X. Microsoft also provides some interesting iOS products, like Photosynth, which it has yet to release on Windows Phone 7.

    The company is clearly keen to capitalize on the opportunities provided by making its software available on competitor platforms, and much of Skype’s value lies in its ability to connect users across a wide variety of platforms. The whole reason I (and many others, I suspect) have a paid Skype account to begin with is that we know it’ll work with basically whatever hardware people I’m trying to contact happen to have. If Microsoft just wanted Skype’s tech in order to keep up with Google and Apple’s video communications tech, it would’ve bought a much cheaper video chat startup and saved itself a few billion dollars. Since it must want the network, too, it’ll keep up development on platforms other than its own.

    And since Microsoft is planning to significantly expand the reach of Skype by building it into incredibly popular devices like the Kinect and Xbox, this deal should actually benefit Apple customers who are also Skype users. That’s because it’ll expand the potential user pool considerably, and make it that much more likely that the person you’re trying to reach through Skype for voice and video chat will have access to hardware that’s equipped for the task.

    I use FaceTime and iChat for video calls between Macs on occasion, but I know just as many households with Xboxes and Kinects as I do ones with Macs or FaceTime-capable iOS devices. In theory, Skype’s expanded availability should just about double my potential iPhone and Mac video calling audience.

    The update cycle for Skype’s Mac and iOS clients might suffer in comparison to their Windows counterparts as a result of this deal, but Microsoft won’t drop support entirely, and the VoIP service’s reach will increase considerably. It’s one more step towards making video chat usable and useful to more people, which is a good thing for those hoping video calling catches on.

    Related content from GigaOM Pro (subscription req'd):

    The cloud-optimized networks of tomorrow run on Brocade Ethernet fabrics today. Assess Your Cloud Readiness. Download Forrester Study »


  • Why Microsoft Is Buying Skype for $8.5 Billion
    Skype CEO Tony Bates

    Skype CEO Tony Bates

    Updated at 12 midnight. Microsoft has bought Skype for $8.5 billion, in an all-cash deal. The deal closed a few hours ago. is close to finalizing a deal to buy Skype for between $7 billion to $8 billion. The Wall Street Journal confirmed  the news after we had first reported it yesterday. The announcement is likely to come out later today or tomorrow morning, according to several reports. Steve Ballmer, CEO of Microsoft, is said to be a big champion of the deal, the largest in the history of the company. Ballmer and Skype CEO Tony Bates will host a press conference in a few hours.

    Skype has been up for sale for some time, thanks to some very antsy investors. My sources indicated both eBay and Silver Lake Partners have been getting nervous about the delayed initial public offering and have been pushing for a sale of Skype. Facebook and Google were said to be earlier dance partners for Skype, and Microsoft was a late entrant and is now close to walking away with the prize.

    It won’t surprise me if Microsoft comes in for major heat on this decision to buy Skype — and the software company could always botch this purchase, as it often does when it buys a company. The Skype team is also full of hired guns who are likely to move on to the next opportunity rather than dealing with the famed Microsoft bureaucracy.

    I also don’t believe Facebook and Google were serious buyers. Google, with its Google Voice offering, doesn’t really need Skype. In essence, I feel Microsoft was bidding against itself. Even then, I personally think this is a bet worth taking, especially for a company that has been left out in the cold for so long.

    • Skype gives Microsoft a  boost in the enterprise collaboration market, thanks to Skype's voice, video and sharing capabilities, especially when competing with Cisco and Google.
    • It gives Microsoft a working relationship with carriers, many of them looking to partner with Skype as they start to transition to LTE-based networks.
    • It would give them a must-have application/service that can help with the adoption of the future versions of Windows Mobile operating system.
    • However, the biggest reason for Microsoft to buy Skype is Windows Phone 7 (Mobile OS) and Nokia. The software giant needs a competitive offering to Google Voice and Apple’s emerging communication platform, Facetime.

    Guess Who’s the Big Winner

    The biggest winner of this deal could actually be Facebook. The Palo Alto, Calif.-based social networking giant had little or no chance of buying Skype. Had it been public, it would have been a different story. With Microsoft, it gets the best of both worlds: It gets access to Skype assets (Microsoft is an investor in Facebook) and it gets to keep Skype away from Google.

    Facebook needs Skype badly. Among other things, it needs to use Skype’s peer-to-peer network to offer video and voice services to the users of Facebook Chat. If the company had to use conventional methods and offer voice and video service to its 600 million plus customers, the cost and overhead of operating the infrastructure would be prohibitive.

    Facebook can also help Skype get more customers for its SkypeOut service, and it can have folks use Facebook Credits to pay for Skype minutes. Skype and Facebook are working on a joint announcement, and you can expect it shortly.

    Why Did Skype Want To Sell? 

    Skype had filed for an IPO, was going to do about a billion dollars in revenues, and was on its way to becoming profitable. So why sell? Silver Lake and eBay were both getting impatient and wanted to lock in their profits. Some sources also believe Skype’s revenues had stalled.

    The company had bet heavily on is video sharing service. The premium version of video calling and sharing was a way for Skype to increase its average revenue per user and move into the enterprise market. However, given Skype’s DNA is that of a consumer Internet company, the challenges aren’t a surprise.

    So Who Made What?

    • Using the $8.5 billion price as the likely sale price, eBay gets $2.55 billion for its 30-percent stake in Skype. So in the end, eBay did make money on the Skype deal.

      Skype Founders

      The Skype Founders

    • Niklas Zennström and Janus Friis, the co-founders, with their 14-percent stake, take home about $1.19 billion. Damn, these guys know how to double-dip!
    • Silver Lake, Andreessen Horowitz and the Canada Pension Plan Investment Board (CPPIB) own 56 percent of the company, and that stake is worth $4.76 billion.
    • Andreessen Horowitz had three percent of the deal and made $205 million profit on their $50 million initial investment.

    Related content from GigaOM Pro (subscription req'd):

    The cloud-optimized networks of tomorrow run on Brocade Ethernet fabrics today. Assess Your Cloud Readiness. Download Forrester Study »


Блог арт-салона красоты Team Beauty

Легкий веселый блог, который ведет команда арт-салона красоты Team Beauty. Беседуем о моде, красоте, салонном бизнесе. Присоединяйтесь!
Присоединиться →
Получайте новости с любимых сайтов:       отписаться:
управление подпиской:
партнерская программа: