Google I/O – The Cool Stuff: Part 1

google-io-2013A lot of cool stuff came out of Google I/O last week. Let’s take a quick look at some of them in this sweet two-part series.

Google I/O is Google’s big annual developer bash. Like Microsoft Build and Apple’s WWDC, Google I/O is designed to showcase Google’s latest goodies and achievements. The idea is to attract new developers to use the new features and functionality that will in turn attract more consumer and enterprise customers to the Google side of the mobile world.

This year, Google rolled out a number of new developments in both the desktop and mobile platform spaces. Over the next couple of days, I’m going to highlight some interesting developments from both areas and try to show you where you might find value for yourself. Today, we’re going to concentrate on the desktop.

Desktop Developments

Quick Actions in Gmail
When you get an actionable email message from someone, don’t be surprised when you can act on the item from right within Gmail. Google is rolling out Quick Action buttons that show up next to actionable items. For example, you’ll be able to RSVP for events from within the invite. Flight information will also be a featured action. Its Google’s intention to solicit their developer partners for ideas on additional buttons.

Gmail Payments
Send money via email, just like PayPal, only its Google Wallet. If you have a Google Wallet account, you can send money to anyone else with an email address. They don’t have to have Gmail, but will have to have a Wallet account.

This is nearly the EXACT same model as PayPal, which BTW, does pretty well. Like their other “me too” app Google+, which competes directly with Facebook, I expect this to have the same amount of success. People may give it a shot to see how well it does or doesn’t work, but then will either revert back to their PayPal account or simply abandon it entirely. Google’s been trying to get into the payments game for a while now with NFC and Google Wallet, It hasn’t had a lot of luck, and I don’t see Gmail Payments providing them with any kind of competitive advantage over the very well established and widely accepted PayPal.

Voice-Powered Desktop Search
This new development is meant to compete directly with Apple’s Siri. It’s been rumored that Apple would be bringing Siri to the desktop in Mountain Lion, but that update never materialized. While many Apple users are still looking for it, Google beat them to the punch with the introduction of conversational, voice powered desktop search. I would expect to see this as part of most Chromebooks as well as an extension available via Google’s Chrome browser.

Google Now Cards – Cool Reminders
This is another feature that catches up to Apple Reminders. Supporting both time and date, Google added geo-fencing to Now’s reminders. You can get a reminder to trigger in Google Now when you arrive or leave a specific geographic location.

Geo-fencing has been a bit of an issue for Apple, and the feature doesn’t work as intended. At least I’ve never been able to have it work correctly. Hopefully Google’s vast experience with Maps will help it better trigger these events and its performance will be much better than Apple Reminders’; cuz it kinda sucks…

Streaming Music Service – All Access
This is yet another area where Google beat Apple to the punch. Apple’s iRadio has been rumored to be in the works for a few years now. Unfortunately, the much anticipated and much sought after service has not materialized behind Apple’s Walled Garden of content and services.

I’m not sure how Google pulled it off, but they got to the party first with All Access. For about $10 bucks a month, you can stream “millions” of songs out of the Google Play Store or your own Google Music library. Available in the US now (and other countries in the coming months), users get a 30 day free trial with the service billed automatically after that. If you signup before 30-Jul-2013, you get the service for $8 bucks.

If you plan to use the service and don’t have a fat data plan, you better make a trip over to your cell carrier of choice and make sure you’ve got the bandwidth to support the service. Usually those people who use other streaming services like Pandora or Rdio find that once they start, they can’t stop. This is a huge win for Google as the new service works on the desktop as well as your mobile device. Hopefully, as details of the fine print come to light, we’ll find that it’s worth the cost.

Come back next time, as we’ll dive into some cool mobile developments that came out of Google I/O. It may be that the best is yet to come!

Google I/O – The Cool Stuff: Part 2

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RunKeeper – Your personal fitness trainer.

runkeeper-elite-laptop-560These days, a runner has plenty of choices to track his workout, informations like the miles he ran, body fat loss, calories consumed, etc.
You can find many websites, smartphone applications and many other devices that can track your activity.

I’ve tried a few of these applications, but most of them are not worth paying attention to. But recently after a few feeds from my friends on facebook, I decided to try out the program they were using as their personal fitness coach. This is how I discovered RunKeeper. It’s a mobile fitness platform that leverages the location technology in smartphones to help runners and other fitness enthusiasts better track, measure, and improve their fitness training. Besides that, it’s fun, social, and helpful and has many fitness programs for any level.

The good thing is that we all love competition, and what’s better than competing with your friends? Runkeeper comes with a social ladder board, where you can see your results, achievements, and your rank among your friends using RunKeeper. Yes, achievements which are good way to motivate you. And besides that, you get professional fitness programs and reminders, so there’s no way you can miss any training session.

rkBut wait, you want some more? No problem. You can get a “premium” version too. It’s called RunKeeper Elite. For a monthly or yearly paid plan, you: “Get more from RunKeeper.com and the RunKeeper mobile app with the premium RunKeeper Elite subscription. Enjoy live activity broadcasting, discounted Training Plans and advanced reports to track your training.”

I advice you to use in the beginning the free RunKeeper edition, because it features enough options to do your workouts very well.

What I like the most about the Elite plan is the Broadcast activities and races live feature, and the fact that your followers can see live where are you running and your results in real time.

Happy running!

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Microsoft Behind the [Mobile] 8-Ball

An interesting development – Bill Gates admits that Microsoft’s mobile strategy is clearly a mistake

windowsphone_en-us_how-to_wp8_news_spotify-news-3-460x460I’ve been saying it for years – since about 2004 actually – Microsoft has no idea what they want (at the time Windows Mobile, and now) Windows Phone to be when it grows up. They have no idea how tablet computing fits into the “mobile” picture. Apparently, according to an interview by CBS This This Morning/60 Minutes and article by Preston Gralla, Bill Gates agrees.

Honestly, it’s about time.

Microsoft has this ugly habit of wanting the [computing] world to conform to Windows, and it’s clear the world has moved on. If Microsoft wants to stay not only relevant, but profitable, it’s going to have to accept this and develop a mobile strategy that correctly and appropriately positions and empowers them. Right now, they don’t have a [mobile] clue.

In his article, Gralla says,

If Microsoft had done mobile right years ago, the iPhone never would have gone on to become such a success, and Apple would not be the dominant player in mobile. Microsoft would own mobile as well as the desktop.

I happen to agree. The world was thirsting for a smartphone or mobile device that converged the items they wanted in one place – PIM data, music, video, internet, etc. – into a single device. Microsoft had Exchange ActiveSync, WMP and an a couple different integrated content stores. It had an established application catalog in a number of different vendors, such as Handango. Had it understood how mobile should have worked, it could have gotten to the party first and taken everyone down the mobile path via their vision.

Unfortunately, Ballmer didn’t (and in my opinion, still doesn’t) understand the mobile computing market. He may be a brilliant marketing and businessman, but mobile is something that has escaped him from the get-go. What is needed from Microsoft at this point are big, bold moves powered by their branding and most importantly, their checkbook. Ballmer needs to find someone in the mobile market he trusts and then must let them define the vision and strategy

If Microsoft doesn’t get its mobile act together and define a clear mobile strategy that augments and is not encompassed by Windows, it may find itself permanently behind [the 8-ball], and eventually out of the game entirely.

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Ballmer – Office for iPad – Kinda, sorta, maybe, not really…

Office for iPadYour guess on whether MS will release Office for iPad is as good as anyone’s…

What follows is a brief rant on the Office for iPad rumors that have been circulating for a few years.

First there was a screen shot, then a denial, and then a confirmation. Then a retraction and then the rumors started up again with the release of Office 2013 and Office 365. The latest word on the street is that Office for iPad – thought to be called Office Mobile – is a definite maybe; and Ballmer may be the one to put the kibosh on the whole ordeal.

I’m sorry… at this point, Microsoft needs to come out and either say yes or no to the Office for iOS rumors and put the speculation to rest. They aren’t doing themselves any favors, and with the way some of the headlines and tag lines are reading, Steve Ballmer isn’t doing himself any favors either.

According to an article by ComputerWorld, Steve Ballmer is putting the kibosh on the whole project himself. Apparently, Microsoft has an issue with Apple taking 30% of the cut on the app. While I don’t blame them – who would want to give another company 30 cents on every dollar they make on the sale of any given product – all of the speculation around MS Office for iOS really needs to stop.

In my opinion, Microsoft needs to come out with a firm statement on the development of the app. Is it in the works or not? Then they need to figure out a way of delivering it. The problem is obviously Apple’s 30% cut on the sale of the app as well as 30% of all in-app purchases. There’s probably a way to crack that nut; but I’m not 100% familiar with Apple’s rules on paid vs. free apps, subscriptions in apps, etc. in their iOS Developer Agreement.

I think the easiest way around this is to make Office Mobile a free Office document reader. If you want to edit, documents, you’ll need to sign into your Office 365 account, which will, of course, require a subscription. If that’s not 100% compliant, then there may not be a way for Microsoft to deliver the solution without paying Apple 30%, or negotiating a new deal for the app, which I’m nearly certain Apple isn’t going to do.

Any way you slice it, Microsoft needs to make a decision – Office Mobile for iOS yes, or Office Mobile for iOS no. Either way, they need to make a decision, communicate it and then follow through. All of the rumor crap that’s going on and the “Office through a browser” crap that Ballmer is currently suggesting needs to get resolved.

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Take your music anywhere you can get an internet connection with Pandora Radio

One of the hottest technologies in recent years, especially with the implementation of faster mobile broadband technology like HSPA+ and LTE, is audio streaming. While streaming in and of itself isn’t new, heck, other apps have been out for a while, one that has stood out since its introduction is Pandora Radio. It’s a music anywhere app; and its available on a computing device near you, including your Windows PC.

Regardless of where you are – in the car, at the gym, on the train – you can use Pandora Radio to listen wherever and whenever you’re in the mood for your music. The application comes in a number of mobile formats and includes a web-based version as well.

You can enjoy all of your stations right from your PC. You can also create new stations and rate songs using the standard thumbs up or thumbs down. Pandora on mobile devices is fully integrated with Pandora on the web, so everything you create and personalize on your device appears next time you’re back on the web and vice-versa.

Over and above the standard PC to mobile experience, you can easily set up and listen to all your stations in your vehicle. Some implementations of Pandora Radio even have voice support for song and station changes.

Pandora Radio is a great way to listen to your favorite music no matter where you are. As long as you have access to the internet, you can get your music no matter where you are. Its PC and mobile device integration provide a consistent experience with the software and service no matter where you are.

Download Pandora Sidebar Gadget

 

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APP is the world’s first motion picture to feature your mobile as a second screen

2CFILM, a newly founded film company, recently launched its first project. Named APP, the project is actually a motion picture that involves the usage of your mobile as an additional screenYour device will be fully synchronized with the movie in order to receive extra content while watching the movie in your beloved cinema.

APP will be the first film in a series of similar titles produced by 2CFILM to feature this technology. Good news is that this technology will be brought by an application based on  SyncNow® digital watermarking developed by Service2Media and Civolution for iPhone and Android devices.

The movie is about obviously an app that becomes autonomous and dangerous. Nothing new on the narrative side, but the good thing is that the audience will be able to follow a parallel storyline via the app on their mobile phone while still watching the movie. Overall you will get a new dimension of the movie right in your pocket. APP is due for release in the Netherlands on 24 February 2013, and will be distributed by Just Film Distribution.

The partnership between 2CFILM, Service2Media and Civolution  will not end here. They will bring this technology not only in cinemas, but also on DVD’s, television and online TV channels. As Edvard van ‘t Wout, Founder, 2CFILM, states:

App is our first step on to the international stage with our new approach to film, creating commercially-successful films that fit with how today’s audiences consume content and which resonate with the modern world.”

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Free Mobile Broadband with FreedomPop

If you live in The States and you’re looking for cheap mobile broad band, I’ve got good news for you…

I got an interesting email the other day from a new company called FreedomPop. They provide free mobile broadband. All you need is a compatible web stick or hot spot.

FreedomPop is currently in beta.  You have to get an invite to participate.  Mine came out of nowhere, and I have to admit, I bit on the line and signed up.

FreedomPop provides 500MB of free, unrestricted, unthrottled bandwidth.  All you have to do is put a deposit down on either a 4G web stick ($50 bucks) or a 4G hot spot ($100 bucks).  The device arrives via FedEx, and all you have to do is either plug it in or let it charge and turn it on. The device jumps on the network, and away you go.

The web stick works with both Windows and Mac machines with a USB 2.0 port.  The hotspot allows up to 8 devices to surf; but with only 500MB of bandwidth on the free plan, you may want to watch what you do. If 500MB isn’t enough data for you, on FreedomPop’s pay as you go mobile broadband network, they do have plans available for purchase.

FreedomPop offers the following plans:

Data Plan Details Most per Month (US Dollars)
Free 500MB 500MB

$0.02 per MB overage

FREE

Basic 1GB 1GB

$0.01 per MB overage

$9.99

Casual 2GB 2GB

$0.01 per MB overage

$17.99

Premier 4GB 4GB

$0.01 per MB overage

$28.99

Premier 5GB 5GB

$0.01 per MB overage

$34.99

Premier 10GB 10GB

$0.01 per MB overage

$59.99

The cool thing is that these are all pay as you go.  However, if you don’t use it, you lose it.  This isn’t like AT&T’s roll over minutes. You lose what you don’t use at the end of your 30 day cycle, so the point here is don’t buy more than you need. Only buy 10Gb if you know you’re going to use (nearly) 10GB of data every month.  Suburban Chicago is sufficiently covered, so I should be good to go. I’m giving the free plan a shot and will upgrade as necessary. You can also buy “swing loan” bandwidth to get you over a hump on those months that you use more than you normally would.

I’ll let everyone know how things go after my hot spot gets here. If the speeds are decent and the coverage is worthwhile, then you may way to check for availability in your area and sign up.

 

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Meet new friends and find hot flirts with Qeep

Smartphones are really cool, but can be really expensive. Not everyone can afford the gadget and all the extra costs related to it. That’s why I like applications like Qeep. It’s a social networking app for a Brew based cell phone near you.

If you’ve got a Featurephone, or any other phone that is NOT a Smartphone, it’s likely running some form of Java, or Brew, as an operating system. It may or may not have applications on it; and depending on your cell carrier, you may or may not be able to put more applications on it. However, if you can send and receive text messages, you won’t be left out in the cold.

Qeep is a global social network for your Featurephone. Qeep is already the world’s leading mobile gaming & entertainment network; and its social network app, also called Qeep is easy to use. You can use it to play games, chat, send pictures & more.

Qeep looks like a really nice application. If you’re not using a Smartphone, chatting on FB, Twitter or via an IM app like Skype or AIM isn’t always possible. In many cases, you’re simply out of luck, as a similar app doesn’t exist for your phone, or may hit you with huge fees. Qeep won’t do that, as its free to use and makes use of your existing data or cell phone account.

Download Qeep

 

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