Tag Archive: product news


snaptwit

Twitter’s entire premise is based on publicness. “Join the conversation in the global town square!” the company likes to say.

But, over the past year, Twitter has come around to seeing the value of being more discreet.

The company plans to significantly update its direct-messaging product in the near future, according to multiple sources, bringing the long-buried feature to the forefront for the first time in years.

Part of the new reemphasis on direct messaging is already here. For weeks, Twitter has been internally testing a setting that allows users to send and receive direct messages from others without needing to mutually follow one another. And, earlier this week, the company began to roll it out to the public in a limited capacity.

But Twitter’s new vision for direct messages will go further. It has kicked around the idea of launching a standalone direct-messaging application separate from the Twitter app, according to three people familiar with the matter. It is unclear, however, what form the final revamp of direct messages will take.

A Twitter spokesperson declined to comment when asked about future messaging plans.

Twitter’s move comes as a defensive riposte to personal-messaging apps such as WhatsApp, Line and KakaoTalk, all of which have drastically increased in popularity over the past two years. KakaoTalk, in particular, was mentioned as a threat in Twitter’s S-1 IPO documentation, filed earlier this month. To cope with such an increase in attention, other social networks, like Facebook and Path, have also made significant updates to their messaging capabilities.

Twitter paid specific attention to Snapchat, the massively popular ephemeral-messaging service, during its rapid ascent to popular use. Twitter even ran one of its own surveys, according to sources familiar with the matter, finding that people are indeed using Snapchat to engage more with others. And one of Twitter’s updates to Android tablet apps earlier this month borrows heavily from Snapchat’s in-message illustration features.

twitter_engineering-feature

Earlier in the year, Twitter also met with employees from MessageMe, another popular mobile-messaging application, according to sources.

Moving private messaging up the food chain hasn’t always been in the company’s plans. At one point in Twitter’s history, employees discussed possibly killing direct messaging off altogether, according to multiple sources, making Twitter a truly public service once and for all. It is said that Jack Dorsey was one of the biggest proponents of the “all-public” version of Twitter.

Instead, Twitter went in a considerably less drastic direction. Under the direction of Dorsey and then product VP Satya Patel, the company launched a complete redesign of its desktop and mobile products in December of 2011, plucking the direct-messaging menu from the home screen and burying it under a separate, less visible menu. Eventually, the idea was that the product could have possibly been phased out.

Besides dealing with a public that wants personal-messaging services, Twitter also must attempt to solve its serious growth problem, one that seems to have alienated the service from becoming truly mainstream. The company hopes that an upcoming redesign will put an end to its retention issues and ultimately boost Twitter’s overall user ranks.

It is likely that we will see both updates before the year’s end, perhaps in time for the company’s much-anticipated initial public offering next month.

Mac_Pro_2013

“Can’t innovate anymore, my ass,” Apple SVP of worldwide marketing Phil Schiller said when unveiling the company’s behemoth new Mac Pro in June. “This is, without a doubt, the future of the pro desktop.”

Is the new Mac Pro the showstopper machine that Apple claims? We’ll soon find out. During a special event in San Francisco on Tuesday, Schiller said the Mac Pro will ship in December – “before the end of the year,” he added. Price: $2,999.

“It’s a computer that packs an incredible amount of power into a chassis one-eighth the volume of the current Mac Pro,” Schiller said. “It’s got the fastest processor we’ve ever put in a Mac. … And it’s got the fastest memory we’ve ever put in a Mac, too … up to seven teraflops of computing power.”

Like Apple’s other hardware, the new Mac Pro is “environmentally friendly,” Schiller said. It will also be manufactured in the United States.

RELATED POSTS:

  • How a Free OS Will Pay Off for Apple
  • Liveblog and Photos: Apple Rolls Out New Gadgets, Keeps Same Strategy
  • Apple’s iPad Air and Retina iPad Mini Event, in Pictures
  • Apple Unveils a Mightier iPad Mini
  • Well Helllooooo New iPad Air. Have You Done Something Different With Your Hair?
  • iLife, iWork Get Refreshed for OS X Mavericks and iOS, Free With Purchase of New Device
  • Apple Unveils the New Thinner, Lighter MacBook Pro
  • Apple’s New Mac Pro Will Ship In December
  • Apple’s New Mavericks OS X: Free. That’s Right, Free.
  • What to Expect From Apple’s Fall iPad Event (Spoiler: New iPads!)
  • Apple Announces October 22 Event: “We Still Have a Lot to Cover”
  • Apple Will Hold Fall iPad Event on October 22
  • Say Hello to Mavericks, Apple’s New OS X Software
  • Apple Previews New Mac Pro With Cylindrical Design, Double the Power

When Apple said it had a lot to cover today, they were not kidding. In addition to unveiling a new iPad mini and releasing Mavericks as a free update, among other things, the company also revealed new versions of iLife and iWork for its desktop and mobile operating systems.

ilife

Eddy Cue, Apple’s senior vice president of Internet software and services, took to the stage today to introduce the refreshed iLife and iWorks apps, saying, “This is the biggest day for apps in Apple’s history.”

All apps have been redesigned to take advantage of OS X Mavericks and iOS 7, and have been updated to 64-bit and integrated with iCloud. The new software will be free with the purchase of any new Mac or iOS device.

ILife, iPhoto, iMovie and Garage Band now offer a simpler and cleaner design. Of the apps, Garage Band received the biggest update. Garage Band for iOS now supports 16 tracks (up from eight). If you have an iPhone 5s or a new iPad, that number jumps up to 32. You can also share songs via AirDrop or work on tracks on multiple devices via iCloud. On the desktop version, a new feature called Drummer adds a variety of drummers that can play along with your songs.

In iPhoto, you can now create photobooks on your mobile device and then have a hard copy shipped to you from Apple. Meanwhile, a feature in iMovie called Movie Theater allows you to watch your iMovie clips across multiple devices as long as they’re stored in the cloud. On the mobile side, you also get picture-in-picture and split-screen options, the ability to speed up or slow down clips and other editing tools.

On the productivity side, the new iWork, which includes Keynote, Pages and Numbers, brings full file compatibility and the ability to collaborate with others via iCloud – a move that puts Apple closer in step with Google and Microsoft in this area.

RELATED POSTS:

  • How a Free OS Will Pay Off for Apple
  • Liveblog and Photos: Apple Rolls Out New Gadgets, Keeps Same Strategy
  • Apple’s iPad Air and Retina iPad Mini Event, in Pictures
  • Apple Unveils a Mightier iPad Mini
  • Well Helllooooo New iPad Air. Have You Done Something Different With Your Hair?
  • iLife, iWork Get Refreshed for OS X Mavericks and iOS, Free With Purchase of New Device
  • Apple Unveils the New Thinner, Lighter MacBook Pro
  • Apple’s New Mac Pro Will Ship In December
  • Apple’s New Mavericks OS X: Free. That’s Right, Free.
  • What to Expect From Apple’s Fall iPad Event (Spoiler: New iPads!)
  • Apple Announces October 22 Event: “We Still Have a Lot to Cover”
  • Apple Will Hold Fall iPad Event on October 22
  • Say Hello to Mavericks, Apple’s New OS X Software
  • Apple Previews New Mac Pro With Cylindrical Design, Double the Power

blackBerry-pinata

For a smartphone maker whose turnaround effort hasn’t quite gone as planned, forcing it into a strategic review of its business options, even the small victories are cause for celebration.

No surprise, then, that BlackBerry today issued a press release touting a small order for its new Q10 smartphone. Evidently, Hispanic broadcaster Univision Communications has agreed to purchase 2,000 units of the keyboarded handset, which it will use to upgrade all corporate-issued BlackBerrys.

Hardly a large order. Indeed, it’s woefully small compared to the purchases BlackBerry typically touts via press release. Recall that, back in March, the company announced a one-million-handset deal.

Which is not to say that smaller handset orders like these aren’t victories. Just that BlackBerry’s announcement of it on its own is curious. If the company is having trouble landing big enterprise orders for its new handsets, its best hope is to score lots and lots of smaller ones. That a pioneering smartphone vendor of BlackBerry’s size and history announced this small Univision buy on its own today suggests that perhaps the company is having trouble landing those smaller orders, as well. And that’s not a good sign.

If BlackBerry is landing larger enterprise engagements, where are the announcements? If it’s racking up smaller buys, why weren’t those noted along with Univision adding more heft to today’s press release?

A day after announcing a promotion that gave Chromecast buyers three free months of Netflix, Google has pulled the plug on the offer. Google told the Los Angeles Times that it quashed the giveaway “due to overwhelming demand for Chromecast devices,” which move video from the Internet to the TV, and which retail for $35.

pinky-and-the-brain-WinPho

Windows Phone’s market-share march continued apace during the three months ended in September, charting some significant growth abroad.

In the third quarter of 2013, Windows Phone accounted for nearly 10 percent of all smartphone sales in the European Union Five (France, Germany, Italy, Spain, the United Kingdom), research firm Kantar Worldpanel ComTech said Monday. That’s nearly double the share the OS claimed during the same period last year.

Even more noteworthy: Windows Phone now holds an 11.4 percent sales share of Great Britain’s smartphone market, and in Italy it has actually overtaken Apple’s iOS, surging to capture a 13.7 percent share.*

In Australia, Windows Phone charted an equally impressive gain, rising 4.7 percentage points to nab a 9.3 percent share of new smartphone sales there. In Latin America, it increased its share by 1.3 percentage points, to 5.8 percent; and in the U.S. it grew its share year over year to 4.6 percent, from 2.7 percent. The operating system’s lone low point? China, where it lost two percentage points, slipping to a share of 2.5 percent.

Kantar_smartphone_sept2013

Clearly, Windows Phone is gaining momentum – largely thanks to sales of Nokia’s Lumia handsets. Recall that in the Finnish company’s recently reported third quarter, it once again posted an increase in Lumia sales. Nokia shipped 8.8 million of them during the quarter – a nice bump up from the record 7.4 million it sold in the quarter prior, and a vast improvement over the 2.9 million it sold during the same period a year ago.

Despite this quarter’s impressive gains, Windows Phone remains far behind behind Android globally, and behind iOS in all markets save Italy. But it’s scrapping ahead. And the growth it’s showing in Europe and Latin America is encouraging, indeed – more so now that BlackBerry seems to have forfeited whatever distant chance it might have had to be a third-place hopeful in the smartphone market.

*Caveat: Sales of new iPhones typically slow as we head into fall and the expected launch of Apple’s next generation devices.

Qualcomm’s surprise entry into the smartwatch space is running a bit slow.

083013_TOQ watch headsets black

When the company announced the Toq smartwatch in September, it was aiming to ship the first watches by mid-October. That date has come and gone, but Qualcomm said it still hopes to have products available for the holidays.

Qualcomm didn’t give a specific new date for Toq (pronounced “tock”), but it seems like if it isn’t available by Black Friday, it will be hard to claim it as available for the holidays. In the meantime, both Sony’s SmartWatch 2 and Samsung’s Galaxy Gear (announced the same day as Toq) have started shipping, while Pebble just got a significant software update.

Of course, Qualcomm is using the Toq as much as an expression of what is possible using the company’s Mirasol display and other Qualcomm technologies as it is a product that the company expects to be a big commercial hit.

“We expect to make tens of thousands of these, not hundreds of thousands,” Qualcomm executive Rob Chandhok said in an interview at the time of the announcement. “A success, for us, looks like our partners picking up and running with this. Qualcomm isn’t turning into a consumer electronics company.”

Similar to the other smartwatches, the Toq is designed mainly to serve as a companion to a smartphone, delivering notifications and acting as a remote control. Toq, which is expected to sell for about $300, will work with various Android phones. A key differentiator is the Mirasol screen, which has some of the battery-sipping properties of E Ink while still offering a color display.

The new activity-tracking wristband from Jawbone Up
a) syncs your data to your iPhone over Bluetooth,
b) works with an updated version of the app that offers more insight and inspiration,
c) takes baby steps rather than a giant leap forward in the “smart” wearable device category,
d) all of the above.

Jawbone UP24 Persimmon 2

If you guessed choice “d,” you are correct! Jawbone, the San Francisco-based maker of popular Bluetooth audio devices and now the Up wristband, has just released the next next version of its activity tracker.

Called Up24, this wristband sends all of your activity information to its compatible app via Bluetooth 4.0, unlike the previous Up band, which had to be manually plugged into the phone’s audio jack to send data.

And the just-released version of the Up app – Up 3.0 – promises more motivational features, such as a “Today I Will” option that prompts you to commit to goals like going to bed by a certain time or drinking more water. There’s also a new Activity Log, a vertical connect-the-dots display of your activities that’s accessible by swiping down from the app’s home screen.

As with the previous version of the app, Up 3.0 works with partner apps like RunKeeper, Strava, MyFitnessPal and iFit. So the Up app aims to be a one-stop destination for many of your fitness and health needs.

Here’s the thing: The new Up24 band, which looks almost identical to the old one (except for a slightly different swirl pattern on the band), costs $149, compared with $129 for the original Up (which is still being sold, and will work with the new app). So, it’s basically $20 extra for real-time Bluetooth syncing.

Jawbone hasn’t gone the route of the Fitbit Force, which added a tiny display and an altimeter, which measures when you go up stairs. And the company hasn’t gotten fancy with skin sensors or a heart-rate monitor. Up24 even has a slightly shorter battery life than the previous version. And it doesn’t work with Android phones at launch.

Jawbone UP Today I Will - Sleep

The most noteworthy changes, then, are within the new app. It can take several days of use before the app will really start to show its full potential, so I’m looking forward to seeing how this works.

It’s not entirely surprising that Jawbone has opted to focus more on fine-tuning its software – earlier this year, the company bought BodyMedia for a hefty sum, and acquired two smaller mobile app firms; it has also been hiring data scientists and software engineers. As I wrote earlier this year, these moves are so the company can bolster some of the software components and data analysis that are so critical to the success of the Jawbone Up.

In September, Jawbone raised more than $100 million through debt financing and new equity.

Interestingly, Jawbone said it doesn’t see the emerging smartwatch category as cause for concern. “I don’t see the smartwatches as competing with what we’re doing,” Jawbone’s vice president of product management and strategy, Travis Bogard, said in an interview. “We know that sleep is something people are interested in, and you’re not going to sleep with a smartwatch. And once you pack everything into a smartwatch, you’re charging it every night.”

moto_g_new

At first sight, Motorola’s new Moto G looks a lot like the Moto X. The biggest difference is one you can’t see: The price.

The Moto G is designed to sell for $179 or less without a contract, hundreds of dollars below the unsubsidized cost of the Moto X, not to mention the Galaxy S4 or Apple’s iPhone.

“The industry had really abandoned five billion people on the planet who were never going to pay $600 for a phone,” Motorola CEO Dennis Woodside said in an interview last week, showing off the device. “This is at literally a quarter the cost of the iPhone.”

Sure, there are Android phones that sell even cheaper, but they typically run older versions of Android, are incapable of running the latest apps, and often lack such things as a front-facing camera.

“There are products that are $70,” Woodside said. “They are just not very good. … We think there is an opportunity to show people there’s a better way.”

Obviously, Motorola had to cut a few things to hit even its price. The screen is smaller than the Moto X, and uses a less-expensive display technology. It also drops the always-on voice recognition, along with support for LTE networks and the active display that constantly pulses with the time and other notifications.

But the Moto G does pack a gigabyte of memory and 8GB of storage, and is running a quad-core Qualcomm chip. Even rarer among ultra-low-end phones, it packs a modern version of Android (4.3 for now, with a KitKat upgrade due soon).

Woodside suggested during his D11 appearance in June that the company saw an opportunity to offer a modern, powerful Android phone for much less than most rivals were doing.

While declining to forecast how many Moto G phones the company might sell, Woodside said that, this year, some 500 million people that will be in the market for a phone at that price point.

“It’s a big opportunity for us,” Woodside said. “We think we’ve come up with something that is going to appeal to lots of people.”

Most of those 500 million people live outside the U.S., largely in emerging markets. In Brazil, for example, where Motorola is debuting the phone, the average yearly income is $11,000. That means that the iPhone and other high-end phones are really out of reach.

“Outside the U.S., it’s a great aspirational device,” Woodside said.

However, Woodside also sees opportunities in the prepaid market; Motorola expects to start selling the Moto G in the U.S. starting in January.

Some European and Latin American countries will get the Moto G almost immediately, with the device launching in 30 countries.”Motorola hasn’t been in a lot of those markets for a long time.”

Woodside didn’t give much indication of where else the company is headed with future products, but suggested that there may be an opportunity to go even lower-end.

“There are a lot of letters that come before G in the alphabet,” he said.

Performance-gear maker Under Armour, which has been increasing its efforts in the digital-fitness space, has said it will acquire MapMyFitness for $150 million. Austin-based MapMyFitness makes a family of iOS and Android apps – MapMyRun, MapMyRide and MapMyWalk – that track workouts and allow people to share those maps through the apps. MapMyFitness claims over 20 million registered users.

Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 108 other followers

%d bloggers like this: