In Development: Would an HTC Facebook Phone Prove to be the Next Zune?

  • Microsoft lost trust from its hardware partners with the Zune MP3 player which ultimately caused the product to fail. The new Facebook phone could be equally disastrous by pinning HTC against its current software partners.
  • HTC has strong relationships with Google for Android OS and Microsoft for Windows Phone 7, relationships that could be jeopardized in moving forward with a Facebook phone.
  • “One of the key standout features for Windows Phone 7 is social networking and in particular, Facebook integration (Facebook and Microsoft are partnered),” reports Digital Trends. “Google, on the other hand, is at war with Facebook with Google+, and monetizes Android after-the-fact with services like Google+.”
  • “Right now Apple, Microsoft and others spend lots of time on Facebook, but they aren’t likely to continue if they view Facebook as a potential competitor,” suggests the post. “Facebook should be focused on building the best Facebook app for every major platform.”
  • In a related survey conducted by AllThingsD, results suggest an overwhelming number of readers had little to no desire for a Facebook phone (81 percent indicated no interest and 12 percent said they would consider it).

Kickstarter Project: Romotive Develops Smartphone Robot and App Store

  • Here’s another interesting tech project in the works through funding platform Kickstarter…
  • Peter Seid and Phu Nguyen of Seattle have launched Romotive to build robots that are “able to learn, grow, and change, both by adding new hardware modules to the platform, and more importantly, by bring to people everywhere a true ‘app store’ for robots, where robots can quickly gain functionalities based on the app they are running (and you can even code your own),” according to their Kickstarter page.
  • The first is Romo, which offers a platform mount for your iOS or Android phone and treads that allow for mobility. Users can download Romo-specific apps that allow for a variety of games and other abilities.
  • “Romotive builds accessible, highly functional, and flexible robotics platforms that are powered by a supercomputer already carried by millions — the smartphone,” explain the founders in their vision statement.
  • Seid and Nguyen have included a short video on their Kickstarter page that describes some of the robot’s possibilities.

Facebook Phone: Social Networker Taps HTC to Manufacture Buffy

  • Facebook has selected Taiwanese phone manufacturer HTC to build a smartphone code-named “Buffy,” after the television vampire slayer.
  • Ironically, the device will run a customized OS from its main competitor, Google’s Android, and integrate a number of Facebook’s services, many of which will run as HTML5 apps.
  • “Facebook only recently chose HTC, after also considering at least one other potential hardware partner — Korea’s Samsung,” reports AllThingsD. “That means the products themselves are still a ways from hitting the market, potentially as long as 12 to 18 months.”
  • According to a Facebook spokesperson: “Our mobile strategy is simple: We think every mobile device is better if it is deeply social. We’re working across the entire mobile industry; with operators, hardware manufacturers, OS providers, and application developers to bring powerful social experiences to more people around the world.”
  • Although other companies have released phones with dedicated Facebook buttons, Buffy is expected to provide deeper integration, “bringing friends and social activities deep into the mobile interface.”

CEA Forecasts 30-50 Ultrabooks Expected to Launch at CES 2012

  • At a recent CES Unveiled event in London, Shawn DuBravac, director of research for the CEA, predicted that a large number of ultrabooks will debut at the 2012 CES conference in January. “We expect to see 30 to 50 new ultrabooks launch at CES,” said DuBravac. TechCrunch responded with, “That’s a whole lot of MacBook Air clones.”
  • Each year, there seems to be a single prominent device showcased at the annual confab. “iPad killers were out in force at 2011′s show. 2010 was all about 3D TVs while netbooks was the popular product in 2009,” suggests the post. “It seems that ultrabooks might be 2012′s hot product. But can they break the dreaded CES curse that plagued the previous hot products?”
  • TechCrunch describes how Android tablets failed to challenge the iPad and how 3D TVs and netbooks failed to achieve significant adoption. If ultrabooks dominate the 2012 event, will they face the same fate?
  • “Ultrabooks are supposed to be the answer to Apple’s increasingly popular MacBook Air. Intel designed the computing platform to be as thin as possible while keeping the price low. The first batch of ultabooks start at $899 and offer competitive performance. But they’re still not built as well as the MacBook Air.”

Would a Kindle Fire Smartphone Become the iPhone of Android Phones?

  • It has been suggested that Amazon should consider releasing a smartphone version of the Kindle Fire.
  • The belief is that a Kindle Fire phone would stand the best chance to compete directly with Apple’s iPhone, based on the tablet’s affordability, recognizable brand name and unlimited publicity through its connection to the Amazon retail store.
  • “Most important, Amazon has already done a lot of the heavy lifting required to build a phone,” writes Harry McCracken in a related Time article. “It could simply repurpose much of the effort it’s poured into the Kindle Fire tablet, and then add phone-specific features.”
  • “But this is all just hypothesis at this point,” comments TG Daily. “Amazon will be plenty busy with the Kindle Fire for some time to come.”
  • Yet it remains an interesting idea. “I wondered why no company has taken up the challenge of building…well, the iPhone of Android phones,” writes McCracken. “Something that’s elegant, approachable, uncluttered, and respectful of the consumer’s intelligence. Any bundled services would need to be beautifully integrated rather than just shoveled onto the phone indiscriminately, as the apps on Android handsets often are.”

Will LG Electronics Debut a New Google TV at CES?

  • LG may debut a television set with Google software at the 2012 Consumer Electronics Show, according to “two people with knowledge of the project.”
  • The move would be a boon for Google in the field against entrants such as Apple and Microsoft.
  • Google is working to build support for its Google TV software, despite disappointing sales from its Logitech partnership. The company introduced a redesigned version last month after the earlier release failed to meet expectations.
  • “The revamped version of Google TV service has a simpler interface,” reports Bloomberg. “The upgrade was designed to show the YouTube video- sharing service better and opens up the platform for Android developers to build applications for TV. Android is Google’s software platform for mobile devices.”
  • LG rival Samsung has also been in discussions to develop a Google TV product.

Study: 300 Percent Growth in Mobile App Downloads Expected for 2011

  • Mobile analytics firm Flurry has released new estimates based on iOS and Android app-enabled devices.
  • According to the report, 25 billion apps will be downloaded in 2011, marking 300 percent growth from last year’s six billion.
  • Five billion Apple and Android apps are expected to be downloaded in December alone, based on the surge typically associated with mobile shopping and people on break looking for entertainment.
  • Revenue from the U.S. market will reach $2.5 billion, compared with 2010′s $1 billion.
  • The increase in app catalogs has helped the increase. iOS offers about 500,000 apps and Android is around 350,000.
  • ReadWriteWeb also points out that only 43 percent of U.S. consumers currently have smartphones, but the number is expected to reach 50 percent by Q3 2012, which will also fuel app downloads.

Epson Moverio: First See-Through 3D Head-Mounted Display

  • Epson Japan announced the Moverio this week, a see-through 3D head-mounted display that the company claims is the first of its kind.
  • “Think of it as a mix of NEC’s transparent HMD Tele Scouter and Sony’s cool 3D OLED head mounted display HMZ-T1, powered by Android OS,” reports TechCrunch.
  • Epson’s Moverio is lower resolution than the Sony HMD, but at 160g is much lighter in weight.
  • “The Moverio supports MPEG-4/MPEG-4 AVC/H.264 video files, including side-by-side 3D images on its 0.52-inch displays with 960×540 resolution,” indicates the post. “It handles AAC and MP3 audio files, too.”
  • The HMD is expected to hit Japanese stores later this month at a price equivalent to $770.

Tablet Users Lead the Charge in Viewing Video, Prefer iPads over Android

  • According to a new report from analytics service provider Ooyala: “On average, tablet viewers watched videos nearly 30 percent longer than when watching on their desktop.”
  • Additionally, tablet users are twice as likely to watch their videos to the end. “Videos 10 minutes or longer accounted for 56 percent of the time played on tablets and 84 percent played on connected TV devices and game consoles,” indicates the report.
  • ReadWriteWeb adds, “non-traditional TV watching devices such as cord-cutting boxes like Boxee and video game consoles tripled the amount of videos they played during the last quarter, although they still have a minute market share.”
  • And according to results featured on Ooyala’s blog, Apple continues to dominate in this space: “iPads crushed Android tablets in terms of total audience size. iPads accounted for 97 percent of all tablet video plays.”
  • Ooyala’s “VideoMind Video Index” report is available for download from the company’s blog.

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Corvair: Is Motorola Poised to Launch an Android-Based TV Controller?

  • Motorola Mobility has been talking Android-based cable boxes for some time, and now images of a 6-inch Android 2.3 tablet codenamed “Corvair” have leaked.
  • Reportedly “designed for use in the living room,” the device is currently in testing with cable companies.
  • Based on the leaked images, features may include a custom version of Android, IR control, RF4CE (a ZigBee-based RF control protocol), and a high-capacity 4,000mAH battery.
  • According to The Verge: “…the box calls it a ‘dedicated controller,’ but it also seems to show the tablet wirelessly displaying its entire UI on the TV, so we’re guessing it can be used to watch and stream content in addition to serving as a remote control for one of Motorola’s cable boxes.”

iPhone is Safer Than Android and BlackBerry, but For How Long?

  • Malware has grown dramatically on Android’s open operating system compared to Apple’s closed iOS.
  • “Juniper Networks says Android malware traffic rose by 400 percent between June 2010 and January 2011,” reports Forbes. “Lookout Mobile Security reported a 250 percent jump in smartphone malware from January to June 2011.”
  • QR malware codes are becoming increasingly popular. Hackers are looking to acquire personal information, especially banking info.
  • “Apple has a walled garden, with its curating of apps for its App Store, so it’s had far fewer instances of malware, but Android is far more porous,” John Dasher, McAfee senior director of mobile security, told the Financial Times. “There are more than a dozen apps sites, it’s very easy to download apps and ‘sideload’ apps on to a device, and so it’s far easier for a hacker to get an app published that contains malware.”

Will New Hybrid VoIP Service Help Cut Your Phone Bill In Half?

  • Republic Wireless is a new hybrid cellular voice and VoIP service launching November 8. It will offer unlimited voice, SMS and data service over Wi-Fi, and will switch back automatically to regular cellular connections depending on location.
  • The new service will be offered through Bandwith.com, a North Carolina-based company that has been involved with Skype, Google Voice, Twilio and others.
  • “The company’s extensive VoIP infrastructure handles much of the heavy lifting for these services, and it also offers some of its own products, like Phonebooth, a premium VoIP service for businesses,” reports TechCrunch.
  • Other carriers are reportedly in talks, but Sprint is the first on board to serve as the “fallback” cellular network.
  • According to GigaOM, the $19 per month service will require a special Android handset and “includes unlimited voice and text messaging. It also includes unlimited data without any bandwidth caps.”

Viber Media: Prototypical Case Study for NoSQL and Cloud Computing

  • Viber Media is a provider of iPhone and Android apps that enable free text and talk capabilities over 3G and Wi-Fi networks. GigaOM points out that the apps are “built upon a foundation of the MongoDB NoSQL database running atop the Amazon Web Services cloud.”
  • According to a MongoDB press release issued this week: “Viber enables users to talk and text for free with other Viber users without having to sign up, create a separate account, or log in. Once the app is launched, the user simply enters his or her cell number and is automatically part of the community.”
  • “MongoDB manages the intercommunity data exchange that enables users to call and text one another,” adds the press release. “Each time a Viber user connects a cell phone to the network, MongoDB receives call-related information.”
  • Viber’s 130 nodes handle a reported “11 million minutes of calls daily by Viber’s 18 million active users.” GigaOM suggests Viber can be viewed as the “prototypical case study for both NoSQL and cloud computing.”

Despite Niche Protest, the New Google Reader Retires Native Sharing

  • The updated Google Reader was rolled out this week, featuring a revamped user interface and integration with Google+.
  • “Google has ignored the cries of the niche community of Google Reader sharing enthusiasts and has pushed forward in its plans to remove Google Reader’s native sharing features to promote deeper integration with Google+,” suggests TechCrunch. “While the ability to share with Google+ is an obvious important step forward for Google’s social agenda, it will be disappointing change for at least some of the Google Reader community.”
  • A community movement made attempts to save the old features, creating a petition that now has 10,000 responses.
  • Google’s reply: “We hope you’ll like the new Reader (and Google+) as much as we do, but we understand that some of you may not. Retiring Reader’s sharing features wasn’t a decision that we made lightly, but in the end, it helps us focus on fewer areas, and build an even better experience across all of Google.”
  • Google says an Android app update can be expected soon.

All Eyes on Apple: iPhone, iPad Beat Android Devices in Eye-Tracking Study

  • A recent study by EyeTrackshop showed that Apple’s iPhone 4S and iPad 2 “drew more glances and held people’s attention longer than Google Android devices from Amazon, HTC, Motorola and Samsung,” reports Forbes.
  • The study showed participants a picture of six smartphones and five tablets. EyeTrackshop’s software tracked where subjects’ eyes went, in what order and how long, using webcams.
  • “EyeTrackshop said the results equate to respondents dwelling on the iPhone 4S 42 percent longer than the other phones and on the iPad 138 percent longer than the other tablets.”
  • Additionally, a follow-up survey indicated that 40 percent found the iPhone most visually appealing; for tablets, 35 percent for the iPad; and disregarding price, 47 percent said they would buy the iPhone and 48 percent preferred the iPad to other tablets.

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