Navigating the Mobile Landscape: Ecosystems #1

Amazon and the Kindle Fire. Google and the Android-powered tablets, and Apple and the iPad. While Apple still has a huge lead and foothold on the mobile market, I think everyone else FINALLY gets it.

Amazon released the Kindle Fire on 15-Nov-11. Barns & Noble released the Nook Tablet a day or so after that. Both tablets run Google’s Android operating system. The Nook is priced at $249 USD. The Kindle Fire is priced at $199 USD.

Apple – The Leader of the Pack

Despite the fact that Apple’s products boast quite a premium price – the Apple iPad starts at $499 USD – they continue to dominate the tablet market, and their share of the smartphone market is improving. The reason why can be summed up in three words – The Apple Ecosystem.

Through iTunes, Apple’s ecosystem hub, users can sync files, PIM data and browser shortcuts. They can buy, rent and load music, video, pictures, eBooks and applications. They can configure and sync all of their content to an online music locker – iCloud – all at once; and all of their mobile devices, the iPad, iPhone and iPod Family products, run the same operating system, giving users a standardized user experience across all of their mobile devices, regardless of price point. All user data is handled in the same way, and can be shared among authorized family users. The devices are also extremely intuitive and easy to use.

It’s taken Apple eight years to establish, create and refine this consumer ecosystem. It’s taken them that long to build and nurture the vendor relationships and to create and provide the developer community with tools that work within this construct. Apple has defined their consumer ecosystem and has established themselves as the undisputed leader in this space. Ask any tech industry analyst or pundit. They’ll tell you that exactly that. Apple is the company to beat.

Google – Always a Bride’s Maid…

Two years ago, I approached Google with this particular issue and outlined a way for them to compete in, if not own, this space. FroYo was coming online, they had recently introduced the Nexus One, and had authorized Samsung to make and distribute the Galaxy S line of Smartphones. Those could have done anything that the iPhone 3GS was doing, and I felt that my idea, if not dead on, was at least on the right track. They had much of the work done, but just needed to pull it together, insure it integrated appropriately and package it up. It would have given them a leg up on the remaining, or up-and-coming, competition.

Google’s verbal response to me was clear – mind your own beeswax.

They stated they were not, Apple, didn’t want or need to be like Apple, and were frankly, smarter than Apple.

Really?

When I asked why then, they or anyone else for that matter, hadn’t been able to crack the digital music player nut, and pointed out that the only real competition – Microsoft’s Zune – had recently been discontinued, I didn’t get a response. They simply ended the dialog.

Interesting how they introduced Google Music, their own online music locker service; and then recently updated it with the ability to purchase and download songs. They’ve also recently added Google Books to their core Android application collection and updated the Android Market to sell not only books, but music as well. Unfortunately, they’re still missing the desktop photo manager/editor integration. Their also missing integration for a couple other components, but I’m certain they’ll get there eventually. They’re going to have to to remain competitive in this space.

You’re welcome, Google. I should probably send you a pretty hefty invoice for the IP.

Amazon – Never mind, Google…We got this.

Early in 2011, Amazon set the world on its ear – quite literally – when it released and made available to the general public, three specific services: Amazon Cloud Drive, Amazon Cloud Player for Web and Amazon Cloud Player for Android. This development was significant in that it was the first instance of a music locker service that did not get seriously challenged by the RIAA (Recording Industry Association of America) or any other music industry organization or coalition. The key was the way music was getting loaded and played. Users could only access any of their music from one location or device at a time, and sharing of any music was strictly a no-no.

The only thing the RIAA could say was a resounding, “yeah, but…”

Score one for the consumer or little guy, who finally got to store their music in the cloud, and literally play the songs they owned from anywhere they could get an internet connection.

In the same month, actually a few days later, they opened the Amazon App Store for Android, offering a free paid app every week. Pairing both of these together, Amazon found a way to get multimedia content to its users, right to their devices. The music content would play and sync with Cloud Drive via Amazon MP3 on the device, and their App Store undercut Google’s store by offering at least 1 free app per week.

Where Apple pulled together the ENTIRE ecosystem – PIM, Sync Services, multimedia content, apps, eBooks, pictures, etc., Amazon gave users multimedia content, apps and eBooks, and then relied upon the Google Android infrastructure for PIM and Sync Services. It’s ingenious actually, as they could then introduce their own devices (the Kindle Fire, for example), and attract users to their content stores. That’s where the real money is.

Amazon realized this, and as such added additional features to its Amazon Prime services, including unlimited video streaming right to your Android device, including their Kindle Fire tablet.

Come back next time, and I’ll pull everything together and help you decide who is REALLY on top of the mobile landscape.

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Keep yourself organized with StickyNote

You see them all over the office…Stickies. Stuck to desktops, underneath keyboards, on the side of cabinets, hanging from overhangs, and of course, on computer monitors. They are literally everywhere, and the guy who invented the glue HAS to be like a bazillionaire (or at least should be).  The only problem that you bump into is the one thing that makes them so wonderful – they’re everywhere, and they can create a huge mess. This is why I like StickyNote from Tenebril Software. It’s a reminder program for Windows.

StickyNote 9.0 is a virtual notes program, and is the only program to offer photo-realistic, 3D notes that look just like stickies you leave on your monitor. Today, you have more information to remember than ever before – passwords, phone numbers, messages, ideas, just to name a few. Managing this information efficiently is important to staying organized. StickyNote provides an easy solution, both at home and at the office.

StickyNote creates photo-realistic 3D notes on your desktop. With a single click, you can attach notes to documents or programs. Important ideas or passwords will never be lost. You can pass notes instantly over the Internet or local network. You can easily make sure phone messages are delivered in the office without ever leaving your chair. The notes pop up right on the recipient’s computer screen.

You can set alarms, set notes to appear at specific times to remind you of important events, and can even set the notes to appear periodically. You can also synchronize your notes with Microsoft Outlook, your Palm handheld or other PDAs.

read full review | download StickyNote

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Give voice commands with Dragon Dictate

I’ve been a big supporter of, “you talk, it types” for over 10 years. I remember using IBM’s ViaVoice on my Windows XP powered PC back in 1997. While it was, at times, wonderful to be able to give my arthritic hands a break from the amount of typing I do, its performance issues often prevented the creative process from really flowing the way it should have. Writers write. However, it’s not always easy to do when you have to….speak….very…slowly, and very…exactingly. All that’s changed now; and thanks to Dragon Dictate for Mac, I’ve got my MacBook Pro turning cartwheels.

If you’re a productivity junky, like me, then you’re going to love this application. With it, you can control your Mac in a relaxed, hands-free manner without being tied to your keyboard. Instead of using your mouse, you can just speak commands to launch and control applications. You can move the cursor or click anywhere on your screen simply by using your voice. You can tell your Mac what to do, like “Reply To This Message” or “Open Microsoft Word” or “Jump To Google” to work faster and smarter. Create voice commands that automate complex workflows on your Mac.

You’ll need to insure that you have a powerful enough Mac to push this app, however. The biggest issue with this app was system performance and what my Mac was doing with other processor cores and available RAM.  You’ll also find that you need a specialized microphone in order to get the best performance from the app. Please don’t think that you’re going to be able to use the microphone that may be built into your Mac and get really great voice to text recognition. It just isn’t going to happen.  A standard gaming headset should do very well.

read full review | download dragon Dictate

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Fun, addictive and free: Angry Birds

Angry Birds is one of the most addictive games from Rovio today. Not only is it a lot of fun, but it’s available for PC, Android and iOS. I find myself spending, literally, hours of time trying to blow up pigs in some of the ricketiest contraptions and bunkers I have ever seen.

Originally released in 2009 for iOS, Rovio’s Angry Birds decries the pummeling of pork and pork supporters everywhere. While many think that EVERYTHING is better with bacon, these poultry patriots obviously don’t feel that way. Today, you don’t have to have a smartphone, iPad or iPod to play Angry Birds, it’s now available on your computer, and it’s still a lot of fun.

Survival of the Angry Birds is now your responsibility. Their eggs have been stolen by the Pigs. It’s your job to dish out revenge on these green-skinned thieves. In order to do this, you must use the unique, destructive powers of the Angry Birds to lay waste to the Pig’s fortified strongholds. Each level features challenging physics-based demolition, and require the use of logic, skill, and brute force to crush the enemy.

Angry Birds comes in three different variations – the original Angry Birds, Angry Birds Seasons and Angry Birds Rio. Angry Birds, Seasons is available with 2011 and 2012 levels. With it, you can enjoy Christmas, Halloween, Valentine’s Day, St. Patrick’s Day, Moon Festival and other great holiday-based levels.

Angry Birds Rio was released in association with the popular animated feature, Rio. In Angry Birds Rio, the original Angry Birds are kidnapped and taken to the magical city of Rio de Janeiro, where they eventually escape their captors and set out to save their friends, Blue and Jewel. Angry Birds Rio will pair the physics-based gameplay of the original Angry Birds with unique twists based on the hit animated film.

Download Angry Birds for PC | Download Angry Birds for AndroidDownload Angry Birds for iOS (not free – $0.99)

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Take charge of your graphics, icons and digital photos with irfanView

Taking control of your digital photos isn’t an easy task. If you’re like my family and have a lot of children and a photo happy wife, then you’re going to accumulate a lot of digital pictures over the years. This is why I’m happy I’ve got things like irfanView.  It’s a graphics and digital photo editor and management tool for Windows

irfanView (pronounced ear-fan-view) is designed to be simple for beginners yet powerful enough for professionals or advanced users.  It was the first Windows graphic viewer with Multiple (animated) GIF support, and one of the first graphic viewers with Multipage TIF support. It was also the first graphic viewer with Multiple ICO support.

irfanView supports many file formats, and includes support for select RAW file formats, so you may be able to edit files right off your digital camera, before you convert them to a more popular format. It also supports Adobe Photoshop filters, allowing you to bring power to an easier to use editing program, all this even before you consider its own drawing and editing tools.

One of the best things about irfanView is that it runs from a single executable file. It doesn’t require any dynamic link libraries (DLL’s) that may be installed or scattered across your hard drive in order to run.  It also doesn’t contain any registration or nag messages. The application is free, though the author does appreciate monetary support through donations.

read the full review | download irfanView

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LotSoft 2011 Thanksgiving Promo is pulling your families and friends closer than before

LotSoft, a domestic digital entertainment software developer, has started a huge Thanksgiving Promo Campaign from November 18 to November 28. Ten days in which they will offer 10,000 copies of desirable DVD/Video software (valued $300,000 in all). As a participant you have also the chance to play a Funny Holiday Game. The winner of this game will be able to gift BDlot Video Converter to his family or friends. The promo features also a Huge Discount on flagship BDlot products. For more details, you are warmly welcome to visit the Thanksgiving official page at http://www.bdlot.com/special-offer/.

Promotional details:

#1 Giveaway 10,000 copies of BDlot DVD Clone Ultimate, Valued 300,000 USD
The up-to-the-minute DVD copy software which is made for protecting and reproducing users purchased DVD movies.

#2 Funny Thanksgiving Puzzle Game
The winner will earn a chance of gifting BDlot Video Converter to their friends and families.

#3 $10 Thanksgiving Discount Coupon – THANKSGIVING – for ALL BDlot Products
If users miss this giveaway and need to purchase BDlot products in future, they can save 10 USD instantly by using THANKSGIVING, a long-term discount coupon for all BDlot products.

About LotSoft:

LotSoft, (http://www.bdlot.com/) a leading multimedia software provider, specialized on DVD/Video conversion and backup solution since the foundation in 2006. The company has delivered its professional and innovative applications to more than 8,000,000 satisfied customers all over the world, especially, in USA, Canada, United Kingdom, Australia, Germany, France, Italy, Spain, etc.

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Record your music your way with Mixcraft – the affordable multi-track audio and MIDI recording software

My father had a party band while I was growing up. I got introduced to music early on; and as we listened to some vintage reel-to-reel taped, recordings of those band gig’s I began wishing that some of the computing technology we have today would have been available back in the early 1970’s. It would have made listening to some of those recordings a much better experience. However, I’m glad there are applications like Mixcraft today. It’s a multi-track recording tool for Windows.

Mixcraft 5 is a powerful and easy-to-use multi-track recording studio that enables you to record audio, arrange loops, remix tracks, and compose original music with virtual instruments. You can also write entire scores, edit video, and add effects to create professional compositions. The basic features are easy enough for everyone.  The more advanced features are powerful enough to satisfy serious and professional musicians alike.
Mixcraft has a polished professional look. Its custom loop library includes over 3000 royalty-free sounds in dozens of musical styles, including 70’s Funk, Cool Jazz, Surf Rock, Reggae, and Vegas Rock.  Mixcraft also works with both Acid and Garage Band loops.

Read the entire Review | Download Mixcraft

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Cellphone battery that will take just 15 minutes to recharge and last more than a week

Imagine a cellphone battery that will take just 15 minutes to recharge and last more than a week. That dream battery could be closer to reality thanks to Northwestern University research.

A team of engineers has created an electrode for lithium-ion batteries (such as those found in cellphones and iPods) that allows the batteries to hold a charge up to 10 times greater than current technology. Batteries with the new electrode also can charge 10 times faster than current batteries.

The researchers combined two chemical engineering approaches to address two major battery limitations (energy capacity and charge rate) in one fell swoop. In addition to better batteries for cellphones and iPods, the technology could pave the way for more efficient, smaller batteries for electric cars.

The technology could be seen in the marketplace in the next three to five years, the researchers said.

We have found a way to extend a new lithium-ion battery’s charge life by 10 times,” said Harold H. Kung, lead author of the paper. “Even after 150 charges, which would be one year or more of operation, the battery is still five times more effective than lithium-ion batteries on the market today.” – Kung is professor of chemical and biological engineering in the McCormick School of Engineering and Applied Science. He also is a Dorothy Ann and Clarence L. Ver Steeg Distinguished Research Fellow.

For more details, see the source article at Northwestern University but prepare yourself with strong coffee. Battery icon source from Vector Junky.

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