Amazon announced this week that it has launched a new lending library initiative, allowing Kindle users to “check out” e-books from registered library websites.
Users will be able to rent books on their Kindle from more than 11,000 participating public libraries across the country.
Readers will also be encouraged to take notes on the e-books they check out: “Normally, making margin notes in library books is a big no-no. But we’re fixing this by extending our Whispersync technology to library books, so your notes, highlights and bookmarks are always backed up and available the next time you check out the book or if you decide to buy the book,” said Amazon in a statement.
The books are available on Kindle devices or through the Kindle app for Android, iOS, Blackberry and Windows Phone.
A year ago, laptops made up two-thirds of Wi-Fi connections at airports. Today, mobile devices such as smartphones and tablets comprise 59 percent of the total, reveals new data released this week by Boingo Wireless.
Boingo suggests that laptops are not going away — in fact, their numbers have doubled since 2007 — it’s simply that mobile devices are proliferating at a faster rate, fueled by the launch of the iPhone in 2007 (Apple’s iOS dominates the mobile segment with 83 percent of total devices on Boingo’s network).
Not surprisingly, the report suggests similar findings for inflight Wi-Fi, as offered by the likes of Gogo. In the air, iPads make up more than one-third of connections, along with 41 percent for PCs and 20 percent for Macs.
According to All Things D: “Mobile devices are also gobbling up a lot more data than they did just two years earlier, Boingo said. On a monthly basis, the average mobile device consumed 211 megabytes of data in June, compared with 114 megabytes in May 2009. And the devices are also consuming that data in less time, gulping an average of 8.9 megabytes in every 10 minutes of use, compared with 3.7 megabytes in the same period two years earlier.”
“Mega Man” co-creator and former Capcom head of production Keiji Inafune says, “You don’t use a smartphone camera for an interview, and you don’t use a really professional camera to take some small pictures when you’re going to work.”
Similarly, Inafune suggests smartphones are good for a quick game away from home, but dedicated gaming portables and home consoles offer a more complete gaming experience.
Still, game developers cannot ignore the smartphone market, which is currently the target for one of his company’s announced games. Inafune started two companies since leaving Capcom — Intercept and Comcept.
Inafune believes that developers cannot ignore the growing smartphone market: “We have to think about that when we’re making new games, because it’s kind of becoming very easy to let people play games now,” he says. “They don’t have to buy big consoles to play simple games. So that’s what we should think about for the future.”
Walt Mossberg suggests that one reason Apple’s iPad dominates the market is that most other tablet offerings come across as imitations that do not ultimately provide the same superior experience.
Sony aspires to change that perception with the release of its 9.4-inch Sony Tablet S, which Mossberg describes as a “handsome tablet with an unusual, asymmetrical design and some software tweaks and content services it hopes can set it apart from the pack.”
Sony’s new device, launched over the weekend, uses Google’s Android OS and costs the same as the Wi-Fi-only iPads ($500 for the 16GB version and $600 for the 32GB model).
The Tablet S has no cellular data option and tested weaker than the iPad in terms of battery life, but has a design like no other competitor: “One of the long sides of its rectangular, plastic body has a thick, rounded edge that makes the device look like a folded-back magazine.”
Mossberg sees this as a positive, even suggesting the device feels lighter than the iPad (it isn’t), based on how the weight rests on your palm. “While this design makes the Tablet S much thicker than many competitors, it has several advantages. When you hold the device one-handed in portrait, or vertical, mode, it feels much more comfortable and balanced than any other tablet I’ve tested. When you lay it on a flat surface in landscape, or horizontal, mode, the rounded edge creates a natural angle for typing, without a case or stand.”
Additionally setting it apart is an SD memory card slot (useful for transferring media), a customizable row of frequently used app icons, a Favorites feature (ideal for recently accessed media and Web bookmarks), and a universal remote control app with built-in infrared transmitter. “Sony also is bundling services for buying music, TV shows and movies, e-books and games to create a content ecosystem like Apple’s,” writes Mossberg.
We’ll see if these new features and unique design will be enough to attract consumers. If not, another tablet is on its way: “Sony is planning a second, even more radical tablet for later this fall, called the Tablet P. It’s a much smaller and lighter device that has no visible screen until you unfold it to reveal twin 5.5-inch displays that can either be used as one large screen or can have separate content in each.”
Instagram, an iPhone-only photo app, has become a darling of the fashion world.
Started only 11 months ago, Instagram already has nine million users who take photos on their iPhone and apply effects from 15 filters. They can then share their photos in a stream.
Some professional photographers feel the app is “cheapening the art,” but the results can be quite striking and have already been used in magazines.
Kevin Systrom, chief executive and co-founder of Instagram, says the company is not yet profitable. However, the app is starting to draw attention outside the realm of amateur photo enthusiasts and social networkers.
“The top request Instagram gets from corporate users is for custom filters,” reports The Wall Street Journal. “Brands want to create filters specific to their own aesthetic, so that Instagram users can echo a brand’s look — seeing the world as designer Kate Spade does, or Vanity Fair magazine. Mr. Systrom says the company has had other priorities but hinted new filters are coming soon.”
An intellectual property analyst makes the case that the reason Google acquired Motorola Mobility for $12.5 billion last month was not to provide patent protection for Android as most believe. It was to prevent Motorola Mobility from making one or more key moves that would have weakened Android’s patent situation even more.
For example, Motorola Mobility could have taken a patent license from Microsoft signaling a surrender that would have affected every other Android licensee.
It could have started work on a Windows Phone as a way to help it deal with a Microsoft infringement case, suggests the FOSS Patents blog. It also could have attacked other Android licensees to collect royalties.
And finally, it could have sold off its patent portfolio to one of Google’s competitors.
Addressing a crowd at the TechCrunch Disrupt conference this week in San Francisco, Flipboard CEO Mike McCue suggested the Web “will feel a lot different in five years. It will feel a lot like print and be monetized differently than it is currently.”
“I think that the iPad is a superior consumption device for content on the Web,” he added. “It is actually the perfect device for content on the Web. We’re trying to create a new type of browsing experience that is right for the iPad.”
McCue believes that consumers read “more articles on Flipboard than they do in other arenas because they give content room to breathe and have a cleaner layout than the Web. This will lead to a better way to monetize that content with clean, well displayed ads,” reports The Next Web.
McCue added that there is opportunity to move from the Web’s continuous scrolling interface to something similar to the paginated reflow layout that Flipbook uses. “Funny enough, you can actually see this kind of interface in action at the newly launched BostonGlobe.com now,” comments TNW.
Apple’s iPad is becoming a production tool for both professional and amateur musicians.
One band, The Ultramods, produced their recent album in two weeks using only GarageBand on the iPad.
Damon Albarn’s hip-hop project, Gorillaz, combines real vocals and instruments with synthesizers using a collection of apps including Korg iELECTRIBE, Moog Filatron and FunkBox Drum Machine. According to Pocket-lint: “It perfectly illustrates the convenience of being able to lay down tracks on a device, while on the move, with no access to a desktop computer or studio.”
Accessory brand Griffin’s PR director, Jackie Ballinger explains the benefits of tablets for musicians: “Technology, like the iPad enables musicians to become mobile without losing quality, now people are able to make music anywhere without limitations and without substantial costs. With the iPad and relevant apps a less costly alternative to recording studios and instruments, aspiring musicians have the opportunity to produce professional recording using solely these means.”
The article points out that Apple’s GarageBand is the top-selling music app on the iTunes store, and with “iPad prices starting at $499, along with the $4.99 for the GarageBand, that puts the basic cost of The Ultramods’ album production at just under $505.”
Turner Broadcasting has begun airing a series of television commercials on TNT and TBS that lets viewers know they can watch TV episodes streamed online if they have a cable subscription.
The campaign is designed to educate consumers about the concept of TV Everywhere.
“Consumers have bought tens of millions of iPhones and iPads,” explains Steve Koonin, president of Turner Entertainment Networks. “Our vision is that TV Everywhere kind of becomes the consumer-enabling technology that allows them to unlock the potential of those devices.”
An instructional video is also posted on YouTube that goes into detail about how to download the app and login (for example, viewers should be aware that they will need to have their cable bill account number available during the process).
It is interesting to note that Nielsen is crediting the viewing in its ratings if the show is watched within three days of airing.
Liberty Global unveiled a new video delivery platform at IBC in Amsterdam that the company claims will reinvent television by combining the interactivity of the Web with cable and personalized content.
The multimedia gateway will create a wireless network that connects the TV to personal devices such as computers, tablets and smartphones, reports Communications Technology.
The technology, dubbed Horizon, centers on a PC as “the heart of the digital home,” includes a 3D user interface, and is presently undergoing field trials in the Netherlands. Liberty Global suggests it will be commercially available next year.
Sixty content providers — including YouTube, Facebook and Twitter — have already signed up to develop applications for the platform.
The platform has a number of tech partners including Samsung, which built the multimedia home gateway, powered by the Intel Atom CE Media Processor.
NAGRA Media Access will provide the conditional access solution that will support MoCA and Wi-Fi, and participate in the Digital Living Network Alliance (DLNA) ecosystem.
Sprint Nextel will reportedly offer unlimited data service plans for the new iPhone 5, expected to debut next month. This would be attractive to big data users and mark a major difference from rivals AT&T and Verizon Wireless.
Sprint has been struggling with its bigger rivals and hopes that adding the iPhone to its lineup will lure new customers. “It’s a competitive disadvantage if your two larger competitors have the iPhone and you don’t,” says Matthew Thornton, an analyst at Avian Securities. “Getting the iPhone closes that gap.”
Sprint, the third-largest U.S. wireless carrier, already offers unlimited voice and data for RIM’s BlackBerry and HTC’s Evo customers at $99.99/month.
According to Bloomberg: “Apple’s iPhone has proved to be a valuable recruitment tool for rivals: Of the 5.6 million smartphones AT&T sold in the second quarter, the device accounted for 3.6 million. A quarter of the subscribers who bought the iPhone were new to AT&T, the company said.”
Market research firm Pacific Media Associates estimates that approximately 185,000 3D-ready projectors will be sold to U.S. schools (grades K-12) this year, which would be more than double the number sold last year.
“Schools are trying to keep up with the multiplex, keen to find ways to engage students in an age of 3D movies and gadgets that make traditional classroom materials look dated,” reports The Wall Street Journal. “And the technology and equipment makers are eager to create a new market for their 3D products.”
Teachers who are 3D proponents find that introducing 3D experiences in the classroom are beneficial in explaining a wide range of topics from understanding what cartilage in a skeletal system looks like to how math works in real life. “You don’t want to turn away because you don’t want to miss anything,” said one middle school student of the approach.
It should came as no surprise that younger generations are drawn to 3D, the iPad and mobile devices, but despite new technologies interactive teaching techniques remain the key. This makes 3D technology different in the classroom than it is in the multiplex. “Anyone can watch 3D, but you need to interact with it to really learn,” says James Mayrose, associate professor at Buffalo State College and chief executive of Tactus Technologies Inc., a company that offers a 3D dissectible-frog program.
Early studies indicate 3D projection dramatically increases test scores, and it is interesting to note that, unlike TVs, many 3D-ready projectors typically cost the same as regular projectors ($600-800).
According to WSJ, some schools are evaluating budgets while some are “waiting for more 3D materials that are in compliance with testing and graduation standards.” The article also points out that “few if any of the leading academic publishers, including Pearson PLC and McGraw-Hill Cos., have created their own stereoscopic course material, but Texas Instruments’ DLP says it is currently in discussions with various publishers.”
ETCentric staffer Phil Lelyveld suggests this is a potentially huge market for monetization and marketing opportunities.
Jaguar Financial Corporation CEO Vic Alboini, an investor in struggling Research In Motion, is urging the BlackBerry maker to consider selling the company. He has recommended that RIM form a committee of independent executives to explore the proposal.
According to the article: “RIM is seeing its once commanding presence in the smartphone market eroded by the likes of Android and Apple’s iOS: where a year ago RIM accounted for 19 percent of the market, second-quarter figures from Gartner put the company’s current share at 12 percent.”
Alboini suggests that selling RIM would maximize the company’s value to investors, who have watched their investments in the Canadian company significantly decline during the last year.
“RIM has been hanging hopes for its future on the BlackBerry PlayBook tablet, as well as a new swath of smartphones expected to land in 2012 based on RIM’s recently-acquired QNX operating system — the same OS used in the PlayBook,” reports Digital Trends. “So far, industry response to the PlayBook has been muted, with many citing its reliance on a BlackBerry handset for email as a major impediment — and U.S. mobile carrier Sprint recently backed out of plans to offer a 4G version of the PlayBook, citing lack of customer interest.”
During his bleak forecast of the publishing industry at the Edinburgh International Book Festival, novelist Ewan Morrison suggested the rise of the e-book will mean the end of writers as a profession, as piracy and a demand for steep discounts take over the book industry as it has with music, newspapers, games, porn, photography, telecommunications and home video.
Publishers will no longer be able to provide advances to enable writers to make a decent living and writers will increasingly depend on the “long tail” which cannot support them. Morrison adds that only established writers will prosper.
In 10 to 15 years, he believes the largest “publishers” will be Google, Amazon and Apple.
“The writer will become an entrepreneur with a short shelf life, in a world without publishers or even shelves,” predicts Morrison.
Apple claims there are more than 600 U.S. school districts that have at least one classroom where each student is receiving an iPad to use throughout the school day.
The popular tablets feature interactive programs in math, note-taking apps, videos and tutorials on everything from history to foreign languages.
The tablets are reportedly very popular in special education and for those who learn visually.
Textbook publishers are racing to develop curriculum specifically for iPads. Moreover, digital programs are less costly than textbooks and have interactivity and videos as well.
“I don’t want to generalize because I don’t want to insult people who are working hard to make those resources,” says Burlington High (Massachusetts) principal Patrick Larkin of textbooks, “but they’re pretty much outdated the minute they’re printed and certainly by the time they’re delivered. The bottom line is that the iPads will give our kids a chance to use much more relevant materials.”