Growth Spurt: Viera Connect Market of Apps Expanding, says Panasonic

  • The ever-evolving Viera Connect IPTV system is now available on many of the company’s plasma TVs, LCD TVs and BD players. At a recent press event, the company provided details including updates to the number of available apps.
  • The Viera Connect Market of interactive apps includes 120 offerings with expectations of growing two to three times that amount by the end of next year, explained Merwan Mereby, Panasonic interactive content and services VP. According to TWICE: “The connected TV trend is on an explosive course, with estimates for worldwide connected TV shipments expected to surpass those of PCs by the end of 2013, he offered.”
  • The article cites recent additions including a Social TV app, an AccuWeather tracking app and a new 3D car racing game from GameLoft.
  • “To keep up with the challenge, Panasonic has been actively recruiting app development, and is offering a JavaScript app to help third-party developers create programs for the Viera Connect platform,” indicates the article.

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.”

Shopping Trend: Retailers Find that Consumers Prefer Apps to Websites

  • New iPad apps are rolling out this holiday season to entice the eight percent of online shoppers that own tablets.
  • That percentage may seem small, but Forrester Research found that 60 percent of tablet owners use their devices to shop and many prefer them to smartphones or computers for shopping. For clothing company Anthropologie, iPad shopping accounted for six percent of sales this year and is expected to rise to 20 percent with the introduction of their new app.
  • These new apps aim to provide a more interactive experience and capture some of the in-store essence by revamping their electronic catalogs and adding new features to their shopping pages.
  • Revel Touch has built apps for multiple companies including functions like a “virtual dressing room,” that allows users to create outfits and the ability to share choices on social networks. Apps allow tablet shoppers to zoom in, see videos and find the sizes they want with ease.
  • “You can bring the objects to life on an iPad and you can’t do that on paper — and you don’t have to chop down a tree,” the CEO of Catalog Spree told The New York Times. The company also reported that, on weekends, its users spend almost eight times as long on the retailers’ app as they do on the retailers’ Web sites.

Interactive TV Trends: Multiple Screens Leading to a New TV Experience

  • Multiple screens are being used while people are watching TV.  According to Nielsen, some 70 percent of tablet and 68 percent of smartphone owners are using their devices while watching TV. Checking email and looking for related content or checking social connections are the most common activities.
  • This dynamic is starting to have a wide-reaching effect. Advertisers, for example, want to use multiple screens to more efficiently reach audiences; networks are incorporating Twitter and Facebook to increase viewer engagement and participation; and TV OEMs are starting to package TVs with tablets.
  • Startups are targeting TV with apps like Yahoo’s IntoNow, which can identify a show and bring up relevant information and social opportunities. Peel is an innovative recommendation engine and universal remote.
  • TVs will be able to recognize users and recommend content based on preferences. They will also be able to incorporate your tablet and smartphone choices. And, of course, cloud-based apps will allow us to buy and watch TV anywhere on any device.

Panasonic Announces App Expansion for Connected Viera TVs

  • Panasonic’s line of Viera TVs now ships with 12 embedded applications, including Hulu Plus and Netflix. About 120 third-party apps are also available for Viera TVs.
  • Just as PC users add apps to their computers, Viera owners are free to add content apps to their TVs once those apps go through quality-assurance testing by Panasonic.
  • The company says that more than 40 million connected TVs were sold by 2010, and 2013 projections suggest sales of connected TVs will outpace those of PCs.
  • “Panasonic also recently announced a new gaming app, PlayJam; a Bollywood movie/video channel, BigFlix; and the Viera Connect Market, whereby users can upload credit card information once and use it across a variety of apps, such as a demonstrated app in which users could buy 3D eyewear, among other consumer electronics devices,” reports Home Media Magazine.

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.

Pew Research Asks: Are Consumers Really Using Their Apps?

  • The Pew Internet Research Center found that about one-third of adults (18+ with tablets and/or app-enabled phones) use 3 to 5 apps at least once a week.
  • The new study examines the percentage of consumers who use their downloaded apps on a regular basis and suggests there is a significant range of adoption varying amongst different age groups.
  • Pew discovered that only 17 percent of phone users and 7 percent of tablet owners indicate they choose not to use apps at all.
  • “The share of adult cell phone owners who have downloaded an app nearly doubled in the past two years,” reports Lost Remote, “rising from 22 percent in September 2009 to 38 percent in August 2011.”
  • The most popularly downloaded apps were those that provided updates on news, weather, sports or stocks; helped communication with friends/family; and enabled learning about something users found personally interesting.
  • “And 43 percent say they’re using apps to watch TV and movies, which is likely dominated by Netflix and Hulu,” indicates the article.

A La Carte: Will the Future Apple TV Disrupt the Current Live TV Paradigm?

  • Forbes speculates that the rumored future Apple TV would create a demand for single channels, which could potentially break up the cable pricing monopoly.
  • Rather than paying for a package of a hundred channels, users would pay a la carte for content just as single-channel apps have become popular in the mobile sphere.
  • “Presumably, Apple wants to disrupt this market the same way the iPod and iTunes made it easier for consumers to buy music, and the way the iPhone is slowly moving the cellular industry to data plans over voice plans (see: iMessage, Facetime),” suggests the article.
  • Providers such as Time Warner Cable, Optimum and DirecTV already have apps for live streaming of channels. And ESPN, CNN and Major League Baseball have their own apps.
  • “[Cable providers] might consent to separate channel apps as long as each still requires an overall subscription…that would certainly put a crimp in [Apple’s] potential plans to revolutionize television,” explains Forbes. “And if Apple provides incentives for channels to go it alone, the fight could be massive.”

Mary Meeker Offers Updated Analysis During Web 2.0 Summit Presentation

  • At the recent Web 2.0 Summit in San Francisco, Mary Meeker updated her Internet Trends analysis that she has presented for the past eight years. Meeker is a partner at Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byers and was formerly managing director and research analyst at Morgan Stanley.
  • Meeker offered some compelling data this year (the ReadWriteWeb post features some great trend charts and statistics). Highlights include:
  • Globality — China’s Internet users add up to almost twice the number of U.S. users.
  • Mega-Trend — Empowering people worldwide with mobile devices.
  • 55 percent of Twitter traffic and 33 percent of Facebook traffic comes from mobile devices.
  • User Interface — Touch, sound and movement is the new UI.
  • 85 percent of world’s population now covered by commercial wireless signals.
  • Smartphones and tablets outshipped PCs (notebooks and desktops) in Q4 2010.
  • Mobile apps and advertising has been growing 153 percent/year over past four years.
  • Social networking time is surpassing portal times.

Social Cinema: Will Film Distribution via Facebook Cut Out the Middleman?

  • Hollywood studios are starting to use Facebook as a direct-to-consumer platform for streaming films, possibly cutting out services such as Hulu, Netflix and Amazon in the process.
  • Universal, Lionsgate and Warner Bros. have distributed some 45 films via the Social Cinema app from Milyoni (pronounced million-eye). “What Zynga is to social gaming, Milyoni is to social entertainment,” reads the company’s website.
  • Miramax and Paramount have used similar apps to offer movies for Facebook credits on fan pages.
  • Rentals based on credits are running the equivalent of $3-$5. Facebook draws a 30 percent cut of transaction revenues.
  • Ad Age Digital suggests the studios’ willingness to offer rentals via social network sites “may reflect their desire to foster competition among online distribution platforms,” adding, “Miramax CEO Mike Lang said that digital monopolies were a greater threat to the film industry than piracy and that his studio had been aware of the importance of a competitive marketplace when doing deals with Netflix and Hulu.”

Google+ Rolls Out New Features: Popular Posts, Analytics, Photo Editing

  • According to The Official Google Blog, Google+ has unveiled four new features this week.
  • “What’s Hot” refers to a narrowed stream feature that allows users to see the posts that are trending on Google+.
  • “Ripples” is a new analytics tool that allows users to track the flow of posts across a network, see who shares it and who it reaches.
  • “Creative Kit” is a photo editing tool that goes beyond the regular cropping and tweaking to add interesting effects quickly and easily (the post includes a short video demo).
  • And finally, Google+ is now available to all Google Apps customers worldwide.

App Downloads for Android Sell More than iPhone and iPad Combined

  • App downloads on Google’s Android platform now top iPhone and iPad combined, even in the absence of any competitive Android tablets.
  • The OS accounted for 44 percent of all app downloads for Q2 of this year, according to a recent study by New York-based ABI Research.
  • In the new Steve Jobs’ biography, the Apple founder rails against Android as a “stolen product,” one that he vowed to go to “thermonuclear war” in order to stop its success. Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer recently derided the OS as well, adding you need to be a “computer scientist” to understand Android phones.
  • “But a flood of low-priced handsets this summer has catapulted Android ahead of Apple for the first time in terms of app downloads,” reports the Daily Mail.
  • However, Apple still leads in the per user category. “Android’s app downloads per user still lag behind Apple’s by 2 to 1,” explains Dan Shey at ABI.

Discover App Uses Digital Watermarks for Scanning Images and Video

  • Digimarc moves beyond ‘watermark’ to a ‘desireable consumer experience’ with its new Discover app that “lets users capture visual and audio input with a smart phone and search for related information,” reports MIT’s Technology Review.
  • “Discover combines a variety of media search functions into a single app that will allow users to scan images, audio, video, and even barcodes or QR codes (two-dimensional versions of barcodes) — all without switching between apps.”
  • The CE manufacturers historically objected to installing watermark detectors because the content industry wanted to use them to stop undesired consumer behavior.
  • This app and others like it offer consumers a positive experience that could make that argument moot, and it could support new business models.
  • The free app is available for iOS and Android phones.

API Marketplace: Cabana Exchange Helps Make Feature-Rich Web Apps

  • DIY HTML5 mobile apps anyone? Take a look at the video on ReadWriteWeb to see how quickly it can be done using Cabana.
  • LinkedIn CEO Reid Hoffman, speaking at the Web 2.0 Summit, suggested that the next stage of the Web will involve creating apps and mobile UIs on top of our existing collective data.
  • “Some people believe that a big part of that could come in the form of technology platforms that anyone can use to create those apps and UIs,” reports ReadWriteWeb.
  • Mobile Web app creation platform Cabana now offers the Cabana Exchange API marketplace for app builders to add third party data and functionality.
  • The post cites partners such as SimpleGeo for location data, and API service Mashery whose exchange will include APIs from Klout for social rankings, Qwerly for profile discovery, FanFeeder for sports statistics, Rotten Tomatoes for movie ratings, and for contact info.

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