2011 Gift Guide Part 1 – OK, Great! Now What Should I Buy?

We’ve spent a lot of time talking about mobile devices and ecosystems and the companies that make and distribute them. Let’s take a quick moment and figure out what you should actually buy.

As complicated as this might seem, it isn’t really complicated at all.  We’ll get to specific goodies, next time, but I wanted to take a few moments to talk about how to determine exactly WHAT to buy, given that investing in an ecosystem largely takes you down a specific road, given that you’re likely going to want to mix and match your data on your devices.

What does this mean?

Simply put, if you start a document on your computer, at some point, you may want to shoot it to yourself via email or upload it to your choice of cloud storage (like Dropbox, Windows Live Mesh. iCloud or Amazon Cloud Drive to name a few) so that you can edit it on your laptop or tablet when you get home.  Maybe you stumble upon a bit of brilliance on the way home from work (or where ever you might be) and you stop to take a moment to jot down a few notes in it on your smartphone. A fully functioning, adopted (on your part) ecosystem allows you to do this with your data and your devices. For everything to function this way, its all gotta be connected somehow.

So, again, what should you get?  Here are my recommendations on how to figure this out.

Mac Users
This is probably the biggest no brainer of the bunch; but its not as open as other platforms.

  • Apple Ecosystem: Stick to the Apple ecosystem and iTunes, iPhone, iPad and iPod Touch. The desktop tools all have iOS components and partners, and the data you create on your Mac is designed to enable you to work on all of Apple’s devices. You’d be amazed how elegant and simple it is; but then again, you’re stuck there, and you have to want to be stuck for it all to work.

 

  • Amazon Ecosystem: Since Amazon also has developed Kindle software for iOS, users wishing to move to or from parts of the Amazon ecosystem will also find a bridge here. However, since the Kindle Fire is Android based, see the Google Ecosystem, below.

 

  • Google Ecosystem: Trying to implement parts of the Google ecosystem in an Apple/iOS world isn’t going to be easy, so be ready for some challenges. You aren’t going to be using iTunes to sync content to any Android device, and if you’re a Mac user, you undoubtedly have SOME content there.

Windows and Linux Users
Windows users have a few options, as basically all ecosystems are open and available to them. Linux users (and non-iTunes users) can use doubleTwist for media and rely on Exchange or Google Sync for PIM data.

  • Apple Ecosystem: Windows users have been using iDevices for years. The Apple ecosystem is completely open to all Windows users. The only thing you need to insure is that all your iDevices and iTunes have been updated to their latest versions.

 

  • Amazon Ecosystem: Windows and Android go well together. In fact, many Windows users are also Android users and vice-versa.  Amazon has carved itself a very unique corner of the mobile market by introducing its own app store and inking deals with music labels, and movie and TV studios. The content is available through Amazon Prime, and you get a 30 day free trial with the purchase of a Kindle Fire.  Google itself hasn’t been able to nail this bit down yet, so Amazon stands apart as the most complete player in the Android space, despite the lack of an Amazon-branded smartphone.

 

  • Google Ecosystem: Despite recent developments with Google Music and Google Books, Google’s ecosystem is still somewhat disjointed.  For as much money as Google has, they really need to nail this down. Users who go with an Android tablet and smartphone should be able to exchange purchases and data with all of their devices, provided they are compatible. The only difference may be the Amazon App Store, as I’ve not bought any apps there as yet.

In the end, you shouldn’t really try to mix and match Apple and Amazon/Google devices. You’re going to run into too many challenges trying to get the data and content from one to another, especially on the media and productivity sides of things. eBooks are easy, but will require Kindle software to bridge the gap.

Come back next time, and I’ll have specific gift recommendations for your 2011 Holiday Gift recipients.

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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 a look at the top new features included in the iOS 5 for iPhone, iPad and iPod touch

As announced yesterday, Apple just released iOS 5 for the iPhone, iPad and iPod touch. The new operating system for Apple’s mobile devices includes cool new features, such as wireless syncing, improved notifications, PC-free setup, Twitter integration and over 200 other new features.

Let’s take a look at the best new features…

Notification Center

No more annoying blue box in the middle of your screen. Rather, a smooth little bar (quite the same as the one on the Android devices) will spin at the top of your screen. If you drag it down, you’ll see all the notifications you received and also your emails, weather and stock information. Tap any to access the appropriate app. The Notification Center also appears on your lock screen.

iCloud

This is what I personally consider one of the most important feature. iCloud stores your music, photos, documents, etc., and wirelessly pushes them to all your devices. You can get a free email address, 5GB of cloud storage, syncing for all your contacts, calendars and yes, much more. Also, you can now download your past iTunes purchases.

iMessage

When you’re texting or sending an MMS to another iOS 5 user, the operating system will save you money by sending your message (or pictures) using the internet, rather than your carrier. If you don’t have an Internet connection, the sending button will be green and it will be through your carrier, if it’s blue, it will use iMessage and it will be free of charge. The best part is that you don’t have to do nothing at all about it, iOS 5 will take care of everything in the background.

Newsstand

You can get now your newspapers and magazines delivered on the iPad. The new OS organizes your magazine and newspaper app subscriptions in Newsstand: a folder that lets you access your favorite publications quickly and easily. There’s also a new place on the App Store just for newspaper and magazine subscriptions. And you can get to it straight from Newsstand. New purchases go directly to your Newsstand folder. Then, as new issues become available, Newsstand automatically updates them in the background — complete with the latest covers. It’s kind of like having the paper delivered to your front door.

Camera

Apple understands that people use their iPhone camera quite often. In this manner, they made the camera app faster and you can now take pictures using the volume-up button. You can launch the camera app right from the home screen by double-pressing the home button. You can use grid lines, pinch-to-zoom gestures, and single-tap focus and exposure locks to compose a picture on the fly. Also, if your Photo Stream is enabled in iCloud, your photos automatically download to all your other devices. Moreover, you can now easily crop, rotate, enhance, and remove red-eye without leaving the Photos app in the new iOS.

Safari

Safari it’s not only much faster, but it now allows you to read online content with a “reader” button more easily , that strips out the ads and makes the text look nice. Also, you can save text for later using a feature called “Reading list” which you can find in your bookmarks.

Twitter integration

With the new OS, you only need to sign into Twitter once through the settings. Then you can tweet directly from Safari, Photos, Camera, YouTube, or Maps. Want to mention or @reply to a friend? Contacts applies your friends’ Twitter usernames and profile pictures. So you can start typing a name and iOS 5 does the rest. You can even add a location to any tweet, no matter which app you’re tweeting from.

Reminders

Reminders lets you organize your life in to-do lists with due dates and locations. Let’s say you need to remember to pick up milk during your next grocery trip. Since Reminders can be location based, you’ll get an alert as soon as you pull into the supermarket parking lot. Reminders also works with iCal, Outlook, and iCloud, so changes you make update automatically on all your devices and calendars.

Independence

With the new OS, you no longer need a Mac or PC to own an iPad, iPhone, or iPod touch. You can now do everything wirelessly, right out of the box. You can download iOS software updates directly on your device and you can now back up and restore your device automatically using iCloud.

Wi-Fi Sync

Every time you connect your iOS device to a power source, it automatically syncs and backs up any new content to iTunes wirelessly. So you always have stuff synchronized everywhere you want them.

Note: iOS5 can be installed on: iPhone 4S, iPhone 4, iPhone 4 CDMA, iPhone 3GS, iPod Touch 4G, iPod Touch 3G, iPad, iPad 2 Wi-Fi, iPad 2 Wi-Fi+3G and iPad 2 CDMA.

iOS5 is free and the only thing that you have to do in order to update your device is to connect it to iTunes and it will begin the update.

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CyberLink launched a new and improved version of PowerDVD

CyberLink released PowerDVD 11, the latest version of the media playback software for PCs. PowerDVD 11 introduces a multitude of new features including support for playback and transfer of content from the iPhone, iPad, iPod Touch and Android phones and slates to PC. In addition to smart device content, PowerDVD also facilitates the playback of remote media from sources such as DLNA servers and social networking sites like Facebook, Flickr and YouTube.

Key Features in PowerDVD 11:

Play any HD media: Whether it’s Blu-ray, upscaled DVDs, videos or photos, PowerDVD 11 can play them all flawlessly with optimized CPU/GPU hardware acceleration. And new ultra-fast Instant Seek lets you search for movie scenes in your DVDs in a flash.

Play any 3D media: Experience the hottest new movie and video technology with Blu-ray 3D and native 3D video support. You can even convert your 2D DVDs, videos and photos and enjoy them in 3D.

Play media from anywhere: From Apple and Android devices through to online media, DLNA server content, and Blu-ray and DVD discs, PowerDVD 11 plays it all.

Play in upscaled quality: CyberLink’s unique TrueTheater enhancements allow you to upscale the image quality of your movies, videos, while TrueTheater Surround gives you a surround sound experience using only stereo speakers.

Play social media: Watch TrueTheater – enhanced video from YouTube and view Facebook and Flickr photos and slideshows all from the one application. Easy, convenient and a great time-saver – no more searching!

PowerDVD 11 users with iPhone, iPad, iPod Touch or Android devices are able to download and install the PowerDVD Remote app enabling them to remotely control PowerDVD playback of Blu-ray and DVD movies, videos, photos and music from the comfort of their sofa.

Download CyberLink PowerDVD 11

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Format Factory, the complete media converter

I think it’s time to say goodbye to all paid video converters, because Free Time team breaks the barrier and introduces on the market a complete free converter featuring all the necessary formats for video, audio and image files, including also formats for all the major portable devices: PS3, PSP, XBOX 360, iPhone/iPad/iPod, etc. With Format Factory you can convert any media file into most popular formats such as: wmv, avi, mkv, flv, mp3, wma, jpg, gif, etc. Additionally you can also add subtitles, crop video files, merge or split audio and video files or rip DVD or audio discs into video and audio files but also into popular ISO/CSO images.

read full review | download Format Factory

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4media launches the new iPad Max Platinum for Mac

4Media Corporation released 4media iPad Max Platinum for Mac. This Mac iPad manager software supports transfer music/movies/photos/books between iPad and Mac, copy iPod media files to iTune for backup, rip CD/DVD discs to quality iPad music and movies, convert and transfer incompatible video/audio files to iPad.

4Media iPad Max Platinum for Mac is your best choice to manage iPad in a general and convenient way. With this best Max for iPad for Mac, you can transfer and share music/movies/photos/books between iPad and Mac/iTunes without restrictions, enjoy a variety of video/audio files and DVDs/CDs anywhere, download fantastic videos from top online video websites and convert to iPad videos, create personalized iPhone ringtones with any audio/video you like. Convert video to iPad, rip DVD to iPad, share files among all idevice.

Support connecting multiple devices simultaneously can easily transfer files between different devices including all iPad/iPod/iPhone models. With innate enhancement for file transferring and multimedia file conversion, 4Media iPad Max Platinum for Mac can give you the fastest transferring speed and the best picture quality in conversion experience.

Pricing and Availability
4media iPad Magic Platinum for Mac is available directly from website for $69.99. Full system requirements and more information on iPad Magic Platinum for Mac can be found at http://www.ipadconverter-mac.com/ipad-max-mac/

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Apple introduces iOS 4.3 for iPhone, iPad, and iPod touch

Apple introduces iOS 4.3, the latest version of the mobile operating system. New features in iOS 4.3 include faster Safari mobile browsing performance with the Nitro JavaScript engine; iTunes Home Sharing; enhancements to AirPlay; the choice of using the iPad side switch to either lock the screen rotation or mute the audio; and the Personal Hotspot feature for sharing an iPhone 4 cellular data connection over Wi-Fi.

“With more than 160 million iOS devices worldwide, including over 100 million iPhones, the growth of the iOS platform has been unprecedented,” said Steve Jobs, Apple’s CEO. “iOS 4.3 adds even more features to the world’s most advanced mobile operating system, across three blockbuster devices—iPad, iPhone and iPod touch—providing an ecosystem that offers customers an incredibly rich experience and developers unlimited opportunities.”

The Safari mobile browsing experience gets even better with iOS 4.3. The Nitro JavaScript engine that Apple pioneered on the desktop is now built into WebKit, the technology at the heart of Safari, and more than doubles the performance of JavaScript execution using just-in-time compilation. With the Nitro JavaScript engine, Safari provides an even better mobile browser experience working faster to support the interactivity of complex sites you visit on a daily basis.

New iTunes Home Sharing allows iOS 4.3 users to play music, movies and TV shows on an iPad, iPhone or iPod touch® from their iTunes library on a Mac® or PC over a local Wi-Fi network. With a simple tap you can enjoy all the media in your iTunes library wherever you are in your home. You can stream a movie from your Mac in one room to your iPad in another or stream an iTunes mix to your iPod touch from the office to the kitchen. With Home Sharing on your iPad, iPhone or iPod touch you’ve got your entire iTunes library in your hands wherever you are in your home.

iOS 4.3 includes enhancements to AirPlay, the breakthrough wireless technology that allows users to stream music, photos and video to Apple TV®. With iOS 4.3 you can stream additional content including video from third party apps and web sites, videos from the Photos app and previews from the iTunes app to your TV.* AirPlay also allows you to bring photos to life on the TV screen by using one of the stunning new slideshow transitions, or shoot a video on your iPad 2, iPhone or iPod touch and stream it directly from the Photos app to Apple TV.

The new Personal Hotspot feature in iOS 4.3 lets you bring Wi-Fi with you anywhere you go, by allowing you to share an iPhone 4 cellular data connection with up to five devices in a combination of up to three Wi-Fi, three Bluetooth and one USB device.** Joining a Personal Hotspot is easy and once the feature is enabled a status bar displays how many devices are currently connected. Every connection is password protected and when not in use Personal Hotspot turns itself off to save battery life.

More than 10 billion apps have been downloaded from the revolutionary App Store℠ and more than 350,000 apps are available, including more than 65,000 native iPad apps, to consumers in 90 countries. Users of the more than 160 million iOS devices around the world can choose from an incredible range of apps in 20 categories, including games, business, news, sports, health, reference and travel.

Availability
iOS 4.3 will be available to iPad, iPhone and iPod touch users as a free software update on Friday, March 11. iOS 4.3 is compatible with iPad, iPad 2, iPhone 3GS, iPhone 4 (GSM model), plus third and fourth generation iPod touch. For more information please visit www.apple.com.

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WiFiPad – your free wireless gamepad over Wi-fi for iPhone or iPod Touch

When it comes to gaming controllers, we can find plenty of them of out there, in many shapes and sizes. However, most gamers don’t bother buying one – especially the casual gamers. Well, thanks to WiFiPad, if you own an iPhone or iPod Touch, you can turn it into a wireless gamepad controller. Ok, it might not be the same feeling but it’s quite cool anyway.

Above, you can view a short YouTube demo of someone playing Halo with WiFiPad.

As you probably expected, there will be two software components that you have to install and configure, one for the iPhone (or iPod Touch) and one for the the computer which will run the server.

You can download the component for your iPhone/iPod Touch here and the component for your OS (Windows/Mac OS X) here.

Note: In order to operate, both the computer and the iPhone (or iPod Touch) must be connected to the same Wi-Fi network. Also, the TCP/UDP port 8989 & 8990 must be open.

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