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Amazon Announces New Kindles, New Cloud-Accelerated Web Browser

amazon-kindle-fireamazon-kindle-fireSome huge technology announcements from Amazon today as they introduced three new Kindle devices, a new $79 Kindle, the Kindle Touch, and the Android powered Kindle Fire tablet. As a web agency, the most interesting device is the new 7″ tablet. So far the iPad has largely been the only tablet to capture enough market and mindshare that it is even considered during the design and development of new web sites. With the Kindle Fire’s low price ($199) and Amazon’s ability to slap it front and center everyday on the homepage, the tablet has a strong chance to make a significant impact.

Equally interesting is the announcement that the Kindle Fire will feature a cloud-accelerated web browser called Silk that splits the work of fetching and rendering web sites between the device and Amazon’s cloud services. The browser promises to speed web browsing by reducing DNS requests, caching site data on Amazon Web Services cloud, optimizing site files such as images, and prefetching webpages based on aggregate browsing data.

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No Flash Support in Internet Explorer 10 Metro

ie10-screenshot-300x167ie10-screenshot-300x167
The touch friendly, Metro-style version if IE10 will not support Flash or other plug-ins. (Image: Favbrowser.com)

Microsoft’s Internet Explorer 10 will not support any browser plug-ins when running in the new slick Metro mode. Most notably, that means no Flash support and a reliance on HTML5, JavaScript, and other standards-based technologies for video and other interactivity. When running in standard desktop mode, IE10 will support both plug-ins and extensions.

Metro is the touch-friendly, full screen interface that will run on top of Windows 8 and be the main mode for touch devices such as tablets. According to Microsoft, “running Metro style IE plug-in free improves battery life as well as security, reliability, and privacy for consumers.”

This is another big blow for Flash, which is already not supported on many mobile devices including iPhones and iPads. While there are still things Flash does better (or more consistently across browsers) than HTML5 and JavaScript, developing in Flash is making less and less business sense as mobile web usage continues to explode.

Source: Metro style browsing and plug-in free HTML5

HP Kills Off TouchPad, webOS Phones

HP TouchPadHP TouchPadThe complicated mobile development market got just a little simpler yesterday as HP discontinued operations related to the production of webOS mobile phones and tablets. Not sure anyone saw this news coming, despite rumors that sales of the TouchPad in particular had been abysmal and prices for the tablet had recently been slashed. HP will “continue to explore options to optimize the value of webOS software going forward” however so webOS itself isn’t quite dead yet.

webOS is a great piece of software but HP’s hardware didn’t wow and their devices never found a place in a competitive marketplace. The OS itself was great to use. It felt intuitive and responsive, and from a aesthetics and usability perspective might have been the closest thing yet to matching Apple’s iOS. Hopefully HP can find a partner or a buyer for webOS and maybe by this time next year we’ll see webOS software on HTC phones or even the next BlackBerry.

Hey, at least the HP Touchpad lasted one day longer than Microsoft’s Kin.

PhoneGap 1.0 Released

The PhoneGap open source mobile development platform released their 1.0 version on Friday at the first ever PhoneGap Day in Portland. The platform originally launched in 2009 and after some iPhone App Store hiccups, they have steadily improved by fixing bugs, adding features, and extending platform support as they approached their 1.0 release. Seven mobile platforms are currently supported including iOS, Android, Blackberry, WebOS, and Windows Phone 7.

PhoneGap is a development platform that allows our developers to leverage standard web technologies to build native, cross platform mobile applications. HTML5, CSS3, and JavaScript (along with server-side databases and code) are used to build the base of the mobile web application and then we can wrap that code with PhoneGap in order to leverage native APIs to access a mobile device’s camera or GPS functionality. That standards-based app can then be deployed to the various platforms and app stores.

Mac vs. PC Infographic

Great looking, amusing infographic from the Hunch blog comparing survey answers of Mac users to PC users. Don’t read the comments on that post if you want to continue thinking humanity has a chance.

Apple Helping Microsoft Convince Windows XP Users to Finally Upgrade

Microsoft themselves had tons of trouble getting their customers to upgrade from Windows XP, but now maybe more people will finally take the plunge to the actually very good Windows 7 thanks to Apple and iCloud. Straight from the Apple press release: “Using iCloud with a PC requires Windows Vista or Windows 7; Outlook 2010 or 2007 is recommended for accessing contacts and calendars.” If you want to use all the new features of iOS 5 you’ll have to upgrade to an operating system less than 10 years old.

My work laptop was finally upgraded from WinXP to Win7 just a few months ago so I no longer have any computers running it but there are still plenty of office computers out there still chugging along on XP.

Source: Engadget

The Difference Between the Top 10 iPhone & Android Applications

Maybe the best example of the differences between iPhone users and Android users is the difference between the top apps for the respective devices. Here are the lists of top apps from Retrevo:

Top 10 iOS Apps
  1. Angry Birds
  2. Angry Birds Rio
  3. Tiny Wings
  4. Fruit Ninja
  5. Where’s Waldo?
  6. Tetris
  7. Words With Friends
  8. The Sims 3
  9. Cut The Rope
  10. Plants Vs. Zombies
Top 10 Android Apps
  1. Beautiful Widget
  2. Rom Manager *Premium*
  3. Root Explorer
  4. Fruit Ninja
  5. Better Keyboard
  6. Robo Defense
  7. SetCPU
  8. Weatherbug Elite
  9. Titanium Backup Pro
  10. Power AMP *Full Version*

As much as Android fans love to tout how customizable their phones are, I think the fact that the top apps are almost all ways to change CPU settings, manage RAR archives, and other random hardware tweaks is a little crazy. I’m not sure what a normal Android user thinks when they first check the app store and sees this kind of stuff.

Toyota releases, pulls down iPhone theme for jailbroken phones

Toyota Scion theme for the iPhone

There are lots of reasons to jailbreak your iPhone. Getting this official Toyota Scion theme is no longer one of them. It wasn’t actually good looking or useful, but it was interesting to see a big company like Toyota putting something out of Cydia. Of course Apple didn’t like that, and has forced Toyota to pull the theme down and it is no longer available. (via MobileCrunch)

WordPress 3.1 Released

The newest version of WordPress, version 3.1 codenamed “Reinhardt”, has been released and is available to download or via an autoupdate from the dashboard.

In addition to over 800 bug fixes, this update includes a new admin bar, a cleaner writing interface, and more flexibility for theme developers. WordPress 3.1 also focuses heavily on continuing to turn WordPress into a low end CMS option by adding functionality around their custom post formatting and content type features that were introduced in the 3.0 update.

Continue reading → WordPress 3.1 Released

Will Apple’s New App Store Subscriptions Force Mobile Development Towards HTML5?

We knew it would be coming when News Corp’s The Daily debuted with it’s in-app subscription model, but this week Apple officially detailed their new subscription service for all iOS app publishers. The new policies allow users to sign up for weekly, monthly, or yearly subscriptions and they can easily pay via the same App Store billing system they used to grab Angry Birds. Apple will handle all the payments and management of the subscriptions and users can go to a single place to cancel any subscriptions they have purchased.

Wow. This is great news… isn’t it?

Turns out it may not be that simple.

Yes, Apple is making it easy to get your subscription content into the App Store and in front of those millions of potential customers, but they’re going to take the same 30% cut they do from any other App Store transaction. And there are also some huge caveats that are making many developers very upset. Check out these two excerpts from Apple’s announcement:

All we require is that, if a publisher is making a subscription offer outside of the app, the same (or better) offer be made inside the app, so that customers can easily subscribe with one-click right in the app.

And also…

…publishers may no longer provide links in their apps (to a web site, for example) which allow the customer to purchase content or subscriptions outside of the app.

Essentially, that means you can no longer link to your subscription options online and if you offer a subscription service elsewhere you must also offer it from within the app. And give 30% to Apple every time a payment is processed.

30% on the initial sale of an app is fair. Apple has built the store, provided the marketplace, and given developers access to millions of consumers. With subscriptions, they are acting as little more than a payment gateway. It is up to the developer of the app to create the subscription features, develop the extra content, communicate to the user that they exist, and then finally convince them to sign up. Apple has no role in converting an app user into a premium subscriber. Even PayPal’s high transaction fees are less than 3% on most transactions. Apple wants 27% more than that just to process your payments.

They’re also not going to let you tell users subscriptions are available elsewhere. The press release stated that if you do offer subscriptions on your website you are required to also offer them from within the app so Apple can get their share. For many SaaS companies, it may not be a sustainable business model if you’re having to give away that much of each sale. Especially when your service is primarily web-based and the iOS app is just a tool for existing customers.

Think about companies such as 37signals who have been thriving for years selling subscription services online. Is there anyone out there looking at the App Store first when evaluating large, full featured project management tools? An iPhone app doesn’t help them sell more subscriptions. It’s just a viewer and a way to do simple tasks in a service you already pay for.

Even more confusing, 37signals and many other companies offer APIs which allow third party companies to develop sites and programs that access their data. There are at least 11 iPhone apps currently available for 37signals’ Basecamp, none of which are actually from 37signals and therefore have no right or ability to sell subscriptions to the service. But Apple’s new rules say that these apps must include a way for Apple to sell an in-app subscription in order to be approved. The new rules are just too broad to be fairly applied in every single case.

Will these changes force some developers to decide against offering iOS versions of their apps? If a service already has a large customer base and doesn’t need Apple’s marketing help, does it make more sense for them to develop their mobile apps in HTML5? Developing with HTML5 would save money on cross-platform development while they also maintain complete control over their subscription revenue. That’s exactly the direction 37signals went earlier this month when they launched a non-native, brand new mobile web app for Basecamp even before these new rules were public.

Overall, the whole thing is clear as mud. And according to the Wall Street Journal, the new rules may raise possible antitrust issues. Apple needs to quickly clarify and possibly amend the new policies and explain when they apply, or they will soon be facing a backlash from the very developers whose work has made the iPhone and iPad a monumental success.