Archive for March, 2013


Twitter today updated its iPhone and Android apps and its mobile website, introducing a redesigned Discover tab and a streamlined search experience.

The Discover tab now houses a single stream of Tweets, Trends, and Activities, rather than segregated sections. A dedicated search button has been added to the top of the app next to the tweet button, allowing for easier searches, and the Connect tab has been improved.

twitterupdate

Here’s a full list of the changes:

-Instantly access great content with improvements to search and Discover on iPhone.
-Discover delivers a single stream of Tweets, Trends, Activity and accounts to follow.
-Pull to refresh or keep scrolling to see more content.
-Search now shows the most relevant mix of people, Tweets and photos.
-It’s also easier to use search with one button at the top of the app.
-You can see your five most recent searches and tap them to redo the search, or you can clear your recent search history.
-Links instantly open web pages when you tap URLs in your stream.
-Performance improvements make launch times faster, especially for older iOS devices.
-Connect shows interactions like new followers, retweets and mentions by default. You can switch to “view mentions only” in settings.
-Improved right-to-left language support for Arabic and Hebrew.
-Bug fixes and other improvements.

The newly updated Twitter app is currently available for download from the App Store. [Direct Link]

As with last year, Apple again led the PC market in sales if tablets and traditional personal computers are combined, according to research firm Canalys. In the 2011 holiday quarter, Apple sold 15 million iPads and 5 million Macs accounting for some 17% of the total 120 million units shipped in the fourth quarter of 2011.

For the just-ended fourth quarter of 2012, Canalys estimates that Apple took a greater than 20% share of total shipments, selling 23 million iPads and 4 million Macs. HP and Lenovo were in second and third place, respectively, both selling around 15 million units.

Ipad copy

Apple’s growth in the pad segment was driven by strong demand for the iPad mini. Its overall shipments, however, were hampered by supply issues. Canalys estimates that the mini made up over half of Apple’s total pad shipments, with its attractive price point and compact design leading to significant cannibalization in the iPad range and wider PC market. Despite record shipments, Q4 saw Apple’s pad share dip to 49%, becoming the first quarter it has not controlled over half the market. ‘Apple timed the launch of the iPad mini well,’ said Pin-Chen Tang, Canalys Research Analyst. ‘Its success proves there is a clear demand for pads with smaller screens at a more affordable price. Without the launch, Apple would surely have lost more ground to its competitors.’

Canalys says the tablet segment grew by 75 percent year-over-year to 46.2 million global units on the quarter, while notebook sales were flat.

Whether or not iPads and other tablets should be counted as PCs has become a vigorous debate as observers take differing views on how “personal computers” should be defined. But with Apple making the iPad “PC Free” by eliminating the need to sync to a computer via iTunes and increasing numbers of consumers relying on their iPads for everyday computer functionalities such as browsing, email and music, as well as a broad array of apps, lines between the two types of devices are becoming increasingly blurred.

Apple CEO Tim Cook has repeatedly said that he believes the tablet market will eventually be bigger than the PC market.

To determine the current distribution of Web usage among leading tablet devices following the holiday season, Chitika Insights sampled U.S. and Canadian tablet ad impressions running through the Chitika Ad Network. The data used to compile current market share was drawn across the time range of January 19-25, 2013.

The share of North American tablet traffic coming from users of Kindle Fire tablets grew from 4.88 impressions per 100 iPad impressions (as reported in December) to 9.48 impressions, or 7.7% of the market as a whole. Google Nexus, Samsung Galaxy, and Barnes & Nobile Nook tablets also saw smaller gains this past month, with all three now constituting a combined 6.7% of North American tablet Web traffic.

In its post-holiday mobile device report (using data from December 1-27, 2012) Chitika measured Kindle Fire usage share within their network at 7.51% and it has remained relatively the same at 7.7% one month later. Similarly, the iPad was at 79% following the holiday season, and has recovered slightly to 81%.

Chitika: Share of U.S. and Canadian Tablet Web Traffic, January 19-25, 2013

Chitika: Share of U.S. and Canadian Tablet Web Traffic, January 19-25, 2013

Read more in the full article here.

“Apple has apparently been looking for for a ‘Siri UI Engineer,’ which could have huge implications for its Mac computers,” Chris Ciaccia writes for The Street. “The listing (since removed), notes that the candidate must have ‘familiarity with Unix, especially Mac OS X,’ and display a ‘passion for the Macintosh platform and writing simple, elegant software that is easy and fun to use.’”

“Currently, Siri’s only available on the iPhone 4S, iPhone 5, iPad with Retina display, iPad mini, and the fifth-generation iPod touch,” Ciaccia writes. “There have been rumors in the past that Apple would eventually bring Siri to Mac, and this job listing suggests that those rumors could turn out to be true. When Apple bought Siri, former CEO Steve Jobs saw the technology’s productivity and ease of use potential for any device.”

Ciaccia writes, “Siri may be Apple’s answer to Google (GOOG_) when it comes to search. Instead of typing a query into Google, Siri will answer it for you… Bringing Siri to Mac OS X may not stem the decline in PC sales, but it will show that innovation is alive and well in Cupertino. No matter what Wall Street wants you to think.”

Read more in the full article here.

Microsoft_Store_Flanders_Surface

With its new Surface tablets fighting for market share with more well-established rivals, Microsoft is doing all it can to spur consumer interest in them. To that end, the company is expediting what has to date been a methodical/slow retail store rollout.

Back in December, Microsoft announced plans to open six new brick-and-mortar stores in the U.S. by summer. Today, the company added five new locations to that list. The chosen cities: Natick, Mass.; Portland, Ore.; Honolulu, Hawaii; Troy, Mich.; and Schaumburg, Ill. — assuming that Microsoft has its geography right, which isn’t always a sure thing.

Microsoft’s decision to ramp up its minimalist brick-and-mortar retail presence follows criticism that early sales of Surface were hamstrung by far too limited distribution. The company subsequently expanded Surface sales to Staples and Best Buy.

A wise move, of course. But big-box retailers like those aren’t going to showcase Surface and other Microsoft offerings the way an eponymous store will. By expediting its retail store rollout, Microsoft is not only increasing locations where consumers can have meaningful hands-on time with its products, it’s constructing a brick-and-mortar marketing juggernaut of the sort that has been quite effective for its rivals. The company said in 2011 that it would open 75 more retail stores in the next few years. These upcoming openings are another sign that the pace is quickening.

minorityreport

Punch card. Keyboard. Mouse. Touchscreen. Voice. Gesture.

This abbreviated history of human-computer interaction follows a clear trajectory of improvement, where each mode of communication with technology is demonstrably easier to use than the last. We are now entering an era of natural computing, where our interaction with technology becomes more like a conversation, effortless and ordinary, and less like a chore, clunky and difficult. Those of us working in the field are focused on teaching computers to understand and adapt to the most natural human actions, instead of forcing people to learn to understand and adapt to technology.

Three years ago, the industry’s only point of reference to explain this technology was science fiction, like the movie “Minority Report.” Then in November 2010, Microsoft’s Kinect for Xbox 360 sensor was released, and broad adoption of voice and gesture technology found its way into millions of living rooms. A year later, Microsoft launched Kinect for Windows, which gives researchers and businesses the ability to take the Kinect natural computing technology to market in a variety of industries.

Since then, major investments in the field have been made by established companies like Intel and Samsung, maturing natural user interface (NUI) players like Primesense and SoftKinetic, and new entrants like Leap Motion and Tobii. Natural computing is moving from the realms of researchers to the minds of marketers, and a true commercial category is starting to emerge.

But even just a year ago, there was no definition, no language and no data for the commercial category. Clearly a richer, more informed language was needed. To this end, my colleagues and I have developed a category framework: Kinect and other voice and gesture technologies are part of the Natural Computing category, defined as input devices that enable users to trigger computing events in the easiest, most efficient way possible. Understanding that the term Natural Computing has a variety of different meanings in academia, we found it was a helpful term to describe the business side of human-computer interaction technologies.

In some respects, there is evidence of natural computing all around us, and there has been for many years. Think of automatic doorways, which open up for you with no effort required on your part beyond walking toward them. Think of automatic faucets, soap dispensers and hand driers — all you have to do is offer them your hand.

These systems are the most rudimentary forms of natural computing. They each recognize a single set of data (your hand placement), automatically interpret your intent (to wash or dry your hands) and immediately respond to it (by dispensing water or soap or air). Now imagine if more complicated forms of technology could understand your intent in all its complexity, and respond to it simply, immediately and perfectly. No learning required. This is how those of us working in this field see the future.

There are currently a limited set of ways that users can interact with computing devices, although there will certainly be more in the future. Today, these include everything from manipulating a mouse and keyboard, to touching, speaking and gesturing. The illustration below breaks down these methods according to how close the user is to the screen (“far” vs. “near”), and how hard or easy it is to learn the technology (“learned” vs. “natural”).

First, each input method is designed to solve for different distances. For example, you need to be right next to a screen to be able to touch it, yet you can be several feet or more away from it when using gesture technologies. Similarly, take into consideration how much time it takes someone to learn how to use the technology. Older technologies tend to take longer to learn (think typing lessons or early command line interfaces) while newer ones tend to take less time (think touchscreens). The combination of these two ideas — proximity and ease of use — make up the Natural Computing Category Map, which enables us to better envision where certain natural computing technologies play a role now and where they could grow in the future.

natcomp

Figure 1. Natural Computing Category Map (Illustrative)

Within this new, rising category, the technology receives new information with every single gesture, move or sound, and can adapt to what it learns. After one year in market, my colleagues and I continue to see Kinect for Windows as a fundamentally human technology — one that sees and recognizes users as a whole person, with thousands of examples of human-centered applications beyond gaming in industries like healthcare, retail, training and automotive. Additionally, competitive activity has also accelerated, with new sensor and SDK releases, updates to more established open source offerings and significant partnership and investment activity by major players and new entrants alike.

These other gesture-based technology companies have evolved to form partnerships with major computer hardware manufacturers or are exploring the possibilities of integrating the technology in smartphones. The category is growing and evolving rapidly. All this activity accretes to businesses and consumers, who benefit from the quickly evolving natural computing experiences.

The future of the natural computing category is to reach end-users directly, fundamentally changing everyday interactions with technology. Imagine walking by a storefront window and having an avatar mirror your every move, talking to your next-gen TV with the same tone and sentence structure you would use with a friend, or improving your tennis swing with an immersive simulation tool. If you are reading this and wonder what the future of natural computing holds in store for you, the future of natural computer interaction is here already, albeit unevenly distributed. And natural computing is quickly beginning to demonstrate what a computer can do if you give it eyes, ears and the capacity to use them.

Leslie Feinzaig is the Senior Product Manager for Kinect for Windows. Leslie plays an important role in Microsoft’s Kinect for Windows business and has researched and developed great insights into the industry and competitive landscapes around natural computing.

It looks like Samsung and T-Mobile are about to launch another new Android smartphone, the Samsung Galaxy Exhibit, which will be T-Mobile’s version of the Samsung Galaxy S III mini, and it is expected to feature similar specifications to the Mini.

The photo below shows the Samsung Galaxy Exhibit for T-Mobile, which will come with a 4 inch WVGA display and a dual core 1,2GHz processor and dual cameras.

Samsung Galaxy Exhibit

MoviePass cost around $30 a month and it gives you unlimited access to cinemas in the US, there has been a version of MoviePass available for Apple’s iOS device for a while and now the app is available for Google’s Android platform.

MoviePass for Android will work on Android device running Android 2.2 and above, you will also need GPS on your Android device to use the application.

MoviePass Android

amazon coin

From Facebook Credits to Nintendo Points to Bitcoins, everyone loves a good digital currency. And coming in May, Amazon will be the latest to join the fray. The online retailer has announced its plans to roll out “Amazon Coins,” which will be used for Kindle Fire owners to purchase games, apps, content, and in-app purchases on their tablets.

Amazon is currently touting the new service to mobile developers, encouraging them to make sure their apps support the new payment method by April 25.

Any purchases made via Amazon Coins will still give developers the same royalty payments as if the user paid with a credit card. And unlike some digital currencies that have confusing conversion rates (cough, Microsoft Points, cough), one Amazon Coin will equal one penny.

In order to introduce people to the digital payment method and hopefully lure them into a state of Amazon Coin addiction, Amazon will be offering tens of millions of dollars in free coinage to Kindle Fire customers. The official press release did not specify exactly who would be entitled to the initial free giveaway and how much each user will receive.

Keeping customers coming back for Amazon Coins will be an interesting proposition. After all, Amazon already has multiple ways to pay — retail store gift cards, digital gifting, etc. Offering a payment option that has a more limited scope is a tricky sell. Amazon will likely continue to offer special promotions and offers to get customer dollars locked in to high-margin digital content as opposed to physical products on Amazon.com.

The second takeaway from this news is that it further cements Amazon as its own tablet entity, highly segregated from the rest of the Android community. The fact that the Kindle Fire brand is going to have its own payment ecosystem shows just how much power Amazon holds in the market.

facebook headquarters

If you’re an avid mobile social networker, you are already broadcasting information about your whereabouts throughout the day. It’s common knowledge that the mobile Facebook app has access to your GPS and mobile network location data while you have the app open. But what if it started collecting that data even when the app is closed?

According to a report from Bloomberg, which cited unnamed sources, Facebook is developing a new app set for release in March that would never stop collecting user location data. If the app is installed on your phone, Facebook will know where you are, 24/7.

Of course, the main reason behind this is presumably for advertising. Imagine a company that already knows everything about you from your Facebook profile, but now also knows where you live, where you work, whether or not you tend to head out for Happy Hour, or how often you go to the grocery store. That’s marketing gold, and Facebook could make a killing by offering that kind of ad experience.

Facebook is still trying to figure out exactly how to best monetize its mobile platform. It is the company’s biggest focus right now, having acquired multiple mobile-centric startups in the last couple of years. Two of those startups, Glancee and Gowalla, are directly involved in the new location-sharing app.

The societal norm among smartphone users has reached the point where having a mobile app that tracks and broadcasts your current location is no longer alarming; in fact, it’s expected. An app that keeps tabs on you even when you don’t have the app open, however, is not nearly as common. Even for apps that do monitor your location constantly, users are almost always perfectly aware of what they’re getting themselves into. Software like Find My Friends and Girls Around Me make it glaringly obvious that you are broadcasting location data through mobile servers for other people to see.

Facebook is a very different animal. The social networking platform has grown so much and expanded its vision so far that nobody even knows exactly how much data they’re collecting, what the data is used for, and who has access to it. This new app would significantly raise the already heated Facebook privacy debate.

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