Thursday, 28 July 2011

Twitter boosting ad business by bumping up promoted tweets

witter is aiming to strengthen its advertising business with a new twist on Promoted Tweets.
Promoted Tweets already exist to a certain extent, but now they’re going to be more directly in the face of users. At first, having Tweet ads be more prominent sounds annoying. But it might not actually be that bad.
First, Twitter users are only going to get Promoted Tweets from organizations and businesses they already follow. Sounds fine so far. The difference now is that these Promoted Tweets are aimed to be more “timely.”
Rather than staying in the feed according to the time the particular Promoted Tweet was actually published, said Tweet will appear at the top or as near as can be to the top when a user logs in and checks his or her Twitter feeds. Check out the example below featuring JetBlue Airways.
This could actually be quite useful to Twitter users who use Twitter for finding out about lower airfares, sales at particular stores and similar items. However, it does have the potential to become very annoying. (But then again, so does almost anything on the Internet.)
To compensate for that, Twitter is enabling a feature in which users can dismiss the Promoted Tweet from the timeline with a single click. Hopefully that won’t be necessary too often, as users are already following these businesses and profiles to begin with. Of course, there is the potential that the same item will pop up routinely based on a user’s interests and habits.
The obvious benefit for businesses using Promoted Tweets for advertising is now they have a shot to catch the eye of more Twitter users at any time of day rather than just when they might happen to log on to the microblogging site. But just as with the original Promoted Tweets, advertisers will only make a visible profit when the Twitter user engages, either by clicking on a link, retweeting the item or marking it as a favorite.

Microsoft embracing open-source web platforms (finally)

Microsoft.  Saw this tweet (thanks @mdesilver)
James Urquhart
12/2/09 7:21 PM
James Urquhart from eWeek reports that Azure is now supporting Ruby on Rails.
This is exciting – you now have a major platform cloud player validating the Ruby platform.
It also shows that Microsoft is starting to behave like a “split company” – the Windows and Server business clearly not holding the web services businesses hostage.    Previous Microsoft endeavors have always had vertical integrity as a goal – Browser, OS, Office, Server, Web.  They are changing.

Wednesday, 27 July 2011

Google Books app disappears and reappears on Apple App Store

Yesterday the Google Books app mysteriously disappeared from the Apple App Store and now it’s back again. But this time around, it’s been neutered. Just like the eBook apps from Barnes & Noble, Amazon, and Kobo, Google Books no longer allows in-app purchases for new books. This is in compliance to Apple’s updated App Store rules that requires apps to split revenue made from in-app sales.
Since eBook retailers already need to split revenue with the book publishers, they’ve been unwilling to give up even more of their profits to Apple to allow in-app purchases from their apps. This makes it a minor inconvenience to users of the book service as now they will have to load up the website for the eBook store to purchase new books and then sync it to their iPad tablets instead of being able to do everything from the app itself.
While it’s all just business for Apple, doesn’t it remind you of the Internet Explorer era back in the 1990s where Microsoft made it the default browser for Windows and everybody had a problem with it? If iBooks becomes the only app available on iOS that has in-app purchasing for books, I wonder how will the US courts will feel about it.

iOS 5 Better Than Windows Phone Mango

When Microsoft introduced Windows Phone 7 Mango, the platform refresh that will hopefully bring the Redmond platform closer to its competitors Android and iOS, they emphasized on IE9 as one of the key features. HTML 5 with hardware acceleration will come to Windows Phones and compared to Android and iOS, it was hugely outperforming both. 

It appears that, while Windows Phone 7 rendered HTML 5 at about 25 FPS -- much better than iOS 4 -- Apple's new platform, iOS 5, even in beta, managed to render the same page with 31 FPS. Microsoft and Apple will definitely tweak HTML 5 browsing and rendering some more until both platform refreshes actually hit devices but it is interesting to see how far Apple managed to push its Safari (even in a Beta release). 

Windows 'Mango' Phone

The first smartphone based on the new "Mango" edition of Microsoft's Windows Phone platform was unveiled on Wednesday in Tokyo.
The phone is the first of several handsets due over the next few months, that Microsoft hopes will signal its return to the smartphone market as a serious player. (Video of the new phone and its launch is available on YouTube.)
If that wish sounds familiar, it is. This time last year the company was hoping the first version of the Windows Phone 7 would accomplish the same thing. But that didn't happen.
First Windows 'Mango' Phone UnveiledDespite getting several thousand applications and generally positive reviews, the new platform, which replaced Windows Mobile, was relegated to the sidelines by a rush of new Android devices and updates to Apple's iPhone.
Far from boosting its market share, the introduction of the new operating system saw Microsoft lose share.
Microsoft captured 2.7 percent of the smartphone market during the first quarter of 2011, according to IDC. But a year earlier during the first quarter of 2010, its market share was 7.1 percent, the market research company said. In terms of handsets shipped, those with Windows Phone 7 or Windows Mobile fell from 3.9 million to 2.8 million phones in the two periods.
First Windows 'Mango' Phone Unveiled"We've gone from very small to....very small," quipped Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer earlier this month on his company's lackluster performance.
Mango, officially Windows Phone 7.5, adds some 500 improvements to the Windows Phone 7 platform, according to the company. They include an e-mail "conversation view" that is said to make long e-mail discussions more efficient, a "threads" feature that brings together text, instant messages and Facebook chat, and Internet Explorer 9 for faster Web browsing.
"Mango is a substantial improvement bringing multi-tasking and other needed features," Al Hilwa, an analyst with IDC, wrote in an email. "This really begins to close the gap and in a couple of ways exceeds its competitors."
First Windows 'Mango' Phone UnveiledSome of those improvements can be seen in the new handset, the IS12T, which will be available in Japan only. Built by Fujitsu Toshiba Mobile Communications, the phone will be available in September or after. No price was disclosed.
The company is one of several partners Microsoft is working with on Mango handsets. Others include Taiwan's Acer and China's ZTE, but perhaps the most awaited phones will be from Nokia.
The Finnish cell phone maker threw its weight behind Windows Phone 7 earlier this year when it announced a wide ranging agreement with Microsoft to collaborate on future handsets and technologies.
Nokia is losing market share to aggressive competitors, but it remains one of the world's largest manufacturers of smart phones, so it has the potential to help Microsoft shift the market.
First Windows 'Mango' Phone UnveiledThe launch of the phone came just hours after Microsoft signed off on the operating system and declared it ready to be installed in consumer handsets. That should mean additional phones will get launched in the coming weeks.
"Now everything rests on the diversity of the device portfolio that begins to emerge," said Hilwa.
Looking ahead, IDC predicts Windows-based smartphones will account for 20 percent of the market in 2015, making them second only to Android.
"Microsoft will claw its way to success and market share over the next couple of releases," the analyst said. "Its chances will be helped significantly with a successful Windows 8 release in 2012 which will create synergies between the PC and the phone in new ways."
For Japanese consumers, the IS12T phone has a 3.7-inch screen and a 13.2 megapixel camera. Bluetooth and Wi-Fi are included in the CDMA-based phone. It weighs 113 grams and Fujitsu Toshiba says the battery should provide more than 11 days on standby and more than 6 hours of talk time.

iCloud New in Town

Although it had been rumoured for years that Apple would somehow finally fully embrace the cloud, it was only recently that it felt as though Cupertino was moving in the right direction.
Steve Jobs took to the stage for theWWDC 2011 keynote on 6 June 2011 and announced the Apple iCloud service.
iCloud will indeed store your content and wirelessly push it to all your devices. Apple says it's serious about the cloud and even showed pictures of the company's third data centre during the keynote.
You can check out T3's Apple iCloud video here:
"Today it is a real hassle and very frustrating to keep all your information and content up-to-date across all your devices," said Steve Jobs, Apple's CEO.
"iCloud keeps your important information and content up to date across all your devices. All of this happens automatically and wirelessly, and because it's integrated into our apps you don't even need to think about it - it all just works."
Check out our full guide to iCloud features:
iCloud price
Apple says that iCloud will be completely free for 5GB of storage - it will be set up by default on new iOS 5 devices.
Users get up to 5GB of free storage for mail, documents and backup. Music, apps and books purchased from Apple, and the storage required by Photo Stream doesn't count towards this 5GB total.
You will be able to buy extra storage too.
iCloud release date
iCloud will shop at the same time as iOS 5 in the Autumn, but it's available as a developer beta now, as is iOS 4.3.
iCloud replaces MobileMe
During the keynote Jobs also noted that as of today, MobileMe - which cost $99 - is no more. MobileMe apps have been rewritten to work with iCloud.
The former MobileMe services - Contacts, Calendar and Mail - have all been completely re-architected and rewritten to work seamlessly with iCloud. Users can share calendars with friends and family, and the ad-free push Mail account is hosted at Your inbox and mailboxes are kept up-to-date across all your iOS devices and computers.
iCloud Documents in the Cloud
there's a number of features with iCloud, including Documents in the Cloud. This is a Google Docs rival, where you can access all your documents uploaded to iCloud. If you edit them, then you edits will automatically sync.
iCloud iTunes in the Cloud
iTunes is also being made available on iCloud, so you can share purchased songs on all your devices."You know, it's the same old story," said Steve Jobs, CEO of Apple. "I buy something on my iPhone, and it's not on my other devices. I grab my iPod and it ain't there.
"For the songs you've already bought, we've added a purchased button. It shows the history of all the songs you've bought on any device. I can download any song to any device by pushing that little cloud button.
"It shows the history of all the songs you've bought on any device. I can download any song to any device by pushing that little cloud button. At no additional charge.
"This is the first time you've seen this in the music industry: multiple downloads to different devices for no charge. So in the future, it will push it to all of my devices."
The files are high quality 256 kbps AAC, and it only works with music purchased from iTunes, so if you buy elsewhere for the cheaper prices, you won't be able to make use of the iTunes iCloud service.
iCloud music
iCloud iTunes Match
Music not purchased from iTunes can gain the same benefits by usingiTunes Match, a service that replaces your music with a 256 kbps AAC DRM-free version if Apple can match it to the over 18 million songs in the iTunes Store - so that means any rubbish
It makes the matched music available in minutes, and uploads only the small percentage of unmatched music. iTunes Match will be available this fall for a $24.99 annual fee - we've no word on UK pricing as yet.
Reports are saying this is US only for now, but no doubt it will come to the UK at some point.
iCloud Photostream
As you might expect, iCloud will allow the syncing of photos to the cloud. This is just displayed as aseparate album in Photos, so it's not actually a different app - which is handy. Photos are stored on iCloud for 30 days, forever on your Mac or PC (of course) while the last 1,000 pictures can be stored on each of your iOS devices or Apple TV so they can then be moved elsewhere. Photostream doesn't count within your 5GB of storage.
Photostream automatically uploads the photos you take or import on any of your devices and wirelessly pushes them to all your devices and computers.
Photo Stream is built into the photo apps on all iOS devices, iPhoto on Macs, and saved to the Pictures folder on a PC.
iCloud photostream
iCloud Contacts
Contacts are stored in the cloud and pushed to all devices. Changes are automatically replicated on your other devices. This sounds so much better than Google Sync.
iCloud Calendars
There's also full calendaring support in iCloud - calendars can also be shared between users, too.
iCloud backup
iCloud Backup automatically and securely backs up iOS devices to iCloud daily over Wi-Fi when you charge your iPhone, iPad or iPod touch.
Backed up content includes purchased music, apps and books, Camera Roll (photos and videos), device settings and app data. If you replace your iOS device, just enter your Apple ID and password during setup and iCloud restores your new device.
iCloud Storage
The service seamlessly stores all documents created using iCloud Storage APIs, and automatically pushes them to all your devices.
When you change a document on any device, iCloud automatically pushes the changes to all your devices. Apple's Pages, Numbers and Keynote apps already take advantage of iCloud Storage.
iCloud apps and books
The App Store and iBookstore now download purchased iOS apps and books to all your devices, not just the device they were purchased on
Want to look back? Check out the iCloud rumours we looked at before the event:
Apple's rumoured to have splashed out $4.5 million on the Cloud.comdomain. The company is also said to be striking deals with a number of record labels (in stark contrast to the gung-ho approach taken by Google and Amazon for their respective cloud-based music services) and has even posted a job advert for a 'Media Streaming Engineering Manager'.
Latest rumours also suggest that iCloud could be free to Mac OS X Lion users.
Here are the 10 things we want to see from Apple when it unleashes iCloud:
1. Cross-device support
Apple's often championed for its integrated approach. Apple kit isn't perfect, but it generally works well with other Apple kit, software and services. Therefore, when Apple's iCloud ambitions are revealed, we'd like them to work with Macs and iOS devices, offering similar features to all (although we're not crazy enough to hope anything running less than the latest versions of Mac OS X or iOS will be supported).
2. iOS data back-up/restore
Cloud services could be the means to detach iOS devices from PCs and Macs, finally making iPhones, iPods and iPads truly standalone units. You'd be able to store data in the cloud and access it from a range of apps.
Apple should also back-up and enable you to restore iOS app data. It's absurd that when you delete an app or a game, your data and progress is gone for good - you should be able to optionally reinstate these things on an app reinstall.
GET IT BACK: Delete an app and your data disappears. With cloud-based data restore, this needn't happen in future
3. Music locker
Apple's iOS devices are hardly known for their generous storage, and now Macs are going the same way, embracing SSD. If you've tons of music, chances are your iTunes library is the biggest folder on your Mac, and you can't fit much of your music on your iPhone. But if Apple can figure out what music you own and enable cloud-based access to it via iCloud, problem solved.
4. Label participation
Of course, any major shifts in how Apple deals with music will need label backing. Rumours suggest Apple's in talks with the 'big four', which should give Apple more options than its rivals. It remains to be seen whether labels would allow playback of content not purchased through iTunes, but remember when DRM was removed and iTunes enabled you to 'upgrade' your tracks for a small cost? Perhaps Apple could do the same again with iCloud - a few pence to enable you to play a track from the cloud.
5. Music streaming
For people who don't really want to buy music but still enjoy listening to it, Spotify's more appealing than iTunes. While Spotify is still struggling to expand into the USA, Apple already has worldwide presence and ongoing discussions with labels. Perhaps another string to its music bow will be a streaming subscription service to complement a music locker.
6. Movie and TV streaming
Historically, the movie industry has been even more bone-headed than music labels when it comes to new technology. Therefore, we're not holding our breath about Apple announcing movie and TV-show streaming through its iCloud services, but this would be great to have, again dealing with storage issues on iOS devices and SSD-equipped Macs.
7. Fast media playback
One problem with cloud-based media playback is speed - too often, you have to wait while files buffer. Rumours suggest Apple might deal with this problem by storing small portions of files locally on your device. Playback would start locally and then sync with a downloaded file, reducing caching problems.
8. Improved existing services
Apple's been pretty bad at unveiling new online services and letting them die a long, lingering death. We like the concepts behind the likes of, Ping and Game Center, but the execution in all of them is lacking; a new iCloud offering would be a great excuse to beef up and integrate these services.
Game center
NEW AND IMPROVED: Unveiling new cloud services gives Apple a good excuse to improve mediocre existing offerings
9. Document storage
When using iOS devices, moving documents between them is a pain. Even worse, if you want to move something between your Mac/PC and an iOS device, you have to use email or hideous iTunes File Sharing.
Many apps now get around such problems by using Dropbox for storage, but Apple doesn't control this and it's not fully integrated. It'd therefore be great to see Apple provide a service of the same quality in iCloud. (Sorry, iDisk - you just don't cut it.)
10. Optional sync/merge
Finally, if Apple offers even a fraction of these things with iCloud, it must enable users to more easily manage their computers and devices, along with the information on them.
You should be able to easily sync and merge app collections, music, movies and documents. Using iOS devices and Macs is typically simple and intuitive; Apple must bring similar thinking to the complexities of document and media management across a number of devices and computers.

Android Gingerbread 2.3 not supported for HTC DESIRE

HTC has confirmed that it will not be able to offer a Gingerbread (Android 2.3) update for the HTC Desire.
The manufacturer had hoped to offer the update to the Desire,promising a release by the end of June, but HTC now says that it can't be done.
A post on HTC's UK Facebook page explains that there isn't enough memory for both HTC Sense and Gingerbread to co-exist:
"Our engineering teams have been working hard for the past few months to find a way to bring Gingerbread to the HTC Desire without compromising the HTC Sense experience you've come to expect from our phones.
Stuck with Froyo
"However, we're sorry to announce that we've been forced to accept there isn't enough memory to allow us both to bring Gingerbread and keep the HTC Sense experience on the HTC Desire.
"We're sincerely sorry for the disappointment that this news may bring to some of you," the manufacturer concludes.
Although HTC is yet to confirm rumours that the Desire is being discontinued, the lack of Gingerbread for the aging handset seems to be another nail in its coffin.

YCharts Adds Dividend Tracking: Another Reason Never to Return to Yahoo Finance

For many years I loved Yahoo Finance. It was one of the only sites I used every single day, and the only Yahoo property I used with any regularity at all.
Back when it launched, it was revolutionary for a business reporter, since most engines of real-time financial data are premium, expensive products none of my employers would pay for. I loved it so much, I even used to host a show on Yahoo Finance called TechTicker, now broadened to the Daily Ticker.
But increasingly, I get angry when I go to the site. The information is less-than real time, there are frequent errors, there’s no currency translations or advanced tools for companies listed overseas. The latter wasn’t that big of a deal in 1998. Now that the third largest Internet company in the world is listed in Hong Kong, it’d be a nice new feature. But Yahoo Finance seems to have no interest in new features.
Even the news aggregation by ticker is increasingly useless. Because Yahoo Finance is such a powerful tool for driving traffic, business and financial sites take the Nascar approach– wallpapering stories with dozens of ticker symbols so those stories will show up when each of those stocks are searched. As a result, you can go to GOOG on the day of Google’s earnings and find stories with little-to-nothing to do with Google’s earnings. And like a lot of Web 1.0 portals, the comments and chartrooms make YouTube’s discussions look highbrow.
A lot of this isn’t Yahoo’s fault. The real time data has to come from other sources and those sources aren’t always cooperative or quick. And given all of Yahoo’s problems, why invest in a property whose users don’t demand it? Yahoo has a golden goose on its hands. They’ve rarely had to innovate, and they still dominate the category. TechTicker was run with a highly experienced but skeleton crew, making profitability a snap and within months we had four times the audience reach of CNBC. We should all have such “awful businesses.”
But Yahoo’s gain as a corporation is increasingly my loss as a user. So from now on I’m throwing my support (read: eyeballs) behind a lesser-known Chicago-based company called YCharts in Don Quixote-like hopes that one of two things happens: Yahoo eventually gets under fire enough it fixes its product or someone else (hopefully YCharts) finally builds a great alternative for free, detailed, reliable financial information.
YCharts’ newest feature shows how the company is trying to up the game. It tracks how much a stock appreciated once you take dividends into account. Consider a stock like Procter & Gamble. If you invested $1,000 in P&G in January 1996 those shares would be worth $2,092.90 today. Any stock chart can show you that. But missing is what you make from dividends, which over 50% of companies and 80% of companies listed in the S&P 500 pay. If you reinvested your dividends, P&G would have returned 326.80% over that period, or $1,175.10 more.
YCharts excels at digging into past long-tail data that’s publicly available from a variety of sources– things like P/E ratios, R&D spending, or cash flows graphed over time. The focus is on determining what works in the markets in the long run. This doesn’t just differentiate YCharts, it’s a cheaper way to build the company. Historical data is cheaper to aggregate than real time data, so the company is starting there and will bootstrap its way  into more of the real time fray once it builds and audience, says co-founder Shawn Carpenter.
YCharts has raised just $1.5 million to date, but will likely announce “something new” soon, Carpenter says. Usage is muted compared to other sites at just 350,000 monthly users, but it’s growing fast and those users not surprisingly skew towards desirable demographics like college degrees and higher incomes.
YCharts makes money from charging $40 a month for a premium service that takes their data and adds professional analysis to help investors make smarter decisions. Whether the freemium model will work remains to be seen. There are big established audiences for free financial information and for very solid financial information delivered over incredibly expensive devices like Bloomberg machines. Paying a decently high monthly amount for something in between is newer territory.
I hope it works, because YCharts– or somebody– needs to stay in business long enough to challenge Yahoo Finance. Getting anywhere close to its gargantuan user numbers is going to be tough, making building large, sustainable ad-based company a challenge. In the long run, YCharts may wind up being more powerful as part of a bigger portal than on its own.

Qualcomm’s Awesome Augmented Reality SDK Now Available For iOS

Back around July of last year, Qualcomm launched a software development kit for building Augmented Reality apps on Android. The idea was to allow Android developers to build all sorts of crazy AR stuff (like games and apps that render things in live 3D on top of a view pulled in through your device’s camera) without having to reinvent the wheel by coding up their own visual-recognition stuff. It is, for lack of a better word, awesome.
aug ios
And now it’s available for iOS.
For those unfamiliar with Augmented Reality — or for those who just want to see something cool — check out this demo video I shot a year or so back:
Sometime in the past few hours, Qualcomm quietly rolled a beta release of the iOS-compatible SDK into their developer center. This came as a bit of a shock; Qualcomm had previously expressed that, while an iOS port would come sooner or later, their main focus was building this platform for devices running their Snapdragon chips (read: not Apple devices).
And yet, here we are. This first release of the SDK supports the iPhone 4, iPad 2, and fourth generation iPod Touch — none of which have Snapdragon CPUs in them. Furthermore, this release supports Unity (a WYSIWYG-style rapid game development tool) right off the bat, whereas the Android release didn’t get Unity support until a few months. Developers can also work in straight in Xcode if they so choose.
This platform lowers the “You must be this crazy of a developer to ride this ride” bar considerably, so expect an onslaught of Augmented Reality apps in the App Store before too long.

An “Anomaly” Gives Star Wars Prop Maker The Opportunity To Sell His Original Design

Andrew Ainsworth, the creator of the original Storm Trooper gear in Star Wars, won an infringement case against Lucasfilm allowing him to make and sell his $3,000 helmets without suffering the sting of litigation. Ainsworth made the original armor in 1976 and now sells it on his site,
The case has been brewing since 2009 when Lucasfilm sued in the US and then in the UK. An anomaly in the law, writes the BBC, allowed Ainsworth to classify these as functional rather than artistic items, “under which the creative and highly artistic works made for use in films… may not be entitled to copyright protection in the UK”
This means the company will add new and improved items to its already impressive line of storm-trooper gear, allowing Star Wars fans to, in the immortal words of Han Solo, “take us up to warp speed, Mr. Sulu” when it comes to A New Hope memorabilia.