Auto Manufacturers Announce Collaboration on Data Standards

  • Ford and Toyota announced this week they will work together on the development of standards for Internet connectivity in their vehicles.
  • The collaboration will address Bluetooth and Wi-Fi use, in addition to back-end networking infrastructure for in-vehicle data services.
  • “Standards will be crucial to enable car companies to work with third party developers, device makers, cell phone companies and Internet companies to create applications that are actually compelling to drivers,” reports GigaOM. “Drivers will want to move their data, digital entertainment and Internet services from their homes and cell phones to their cars, and this will rely on a standardized format.”
  • Ford is developing related technology beyond digital entertainment and basic Internet services, with the goal of enabling vehicles to wirelessly communicate in an effort to reduce crashes and fuel consumption.

Android and iOS Numbers Continue to Surge While Competitors Slide

  • Based on Q2 statistics, Android has extended its dominance as the most popular smartphone operating system in the U.S., while Apple’s iOS also continues to gain traction.
  • According to NPD, 52 percent of smartphones shipped in the U.S. during the second quarter were running Android (up 19 percent from the previous year). Apple’s iOS earned a 29 percent share, up seven percent from Q2 2010.
  • NPD reports that these figures may have an impact on the potential revitalization of Motorola. “Google’s acquisition of Motorola shifts the balance of power in the handset-patent conflict between Google and its operating system competitors,” said Ross Rubin, executive director of industry analysis for NPD. “Android’s momentum has made for a large pie that is attractive to Motorola’s Android rivals, even if they must compete with their operating system developer.”
  • Market gains for Android and iOS have negatively impacted the competition. Market share for Research In Motion’s BlackBerry OS dropped significantly from 28 percent in the second quarter of 2010 to 11 percent this year. Microsoft’s Windows Mobile also suffered, falling from 10 percent in Q2 2010 to four percent in Q2 2011.
  • Prepaid smartphone numbers are on the rise, which may also impact Motorola (8 percent of prepaid phones were smartphones in Q2 2010, a figure that jumped to 22 percent this year). “Android is also leading the charge in the rapidly growing prepaid smartphone market,” Rubin said. “This was once a key segment for Motorola that the company has an opportunity to reclaim as prepaid carriers build their smartphone portfolios.”

What Can (Should) We Learn from the HP $99 TouchPad Fire Sale?

  • ReadWriteWeb journalist Dan Rowinski posted an interesting op-ed piece this week: “HP’s $99 TouchPad Fire Sale Can Teach Everybody A Lesson.”
  • “Tablets priced at $99 flying off the shelves and what had been a significant headline on Tuesday (Best Buy has 250,000 unsold TouchPads) had completely turned around on Sunday (Good Luck Finding a $99 TouchPad),” writes Rowinski. “It got me to thinking. As much as consumers love their Apple products and the iPad is a terrific device, consumers want something that is price efficient, even if it is a touch flawed. With literally hundreds of thousands of TouchPads sold over the weekend, a significant note should be playing in retailers’ and manufacturers’ heads — opportunities await for those willing to make a sacrifice.”
  • Rowinski speculates that an iPad killer is not in our immediate future. He also suggests that major changes are in the making with the browser-based mobile apps enabled by HTML5. He discusses tablets by Motorola, Samsung, HTC and Research In Motion and how price point may become as significant a factor as available apps. He addresses how Amazon learned valuable lessons with its Kindle and could possibly “recreate the Kindle furor by introducing a tablet into the market at $200 or less.”
  • “The great equalizer will be price,” writes Rowinski. “Amazon and to a certain extent Microsoft with Windows 8 have actually benefited from waiting to enter the tablet wars. They now see the battlefield in front of them and what it will take to make an impact. Quality devices with reasonable prices. Then turn and make money through value-added services.”

Apple Advises Developers to Stop Using Mobile Software Identifier

  • The Wall Street Journal reports that “Apple is advising software developers to stop using a feature in software for its iPhones and iPads that has been linked to privacy concerns, a move that would also take away a widely used tool for tracking users and their behavior.”
  • Developers have been using a unique identifier for each device (known as UDID or Unique Device Identifier) to gather personal data about users, but the company has requested that developers not use the UDID with a new version of the operating system expected in coming weeks.
  • “The company set no specific deadline for the change,” reports WSJ. “But it stated on a website for developers that the feature ‘has been superseded and may become unsupported in the future.'”
  • Although privacy advocates reportedly embrace the change, it could potentially create “widespread repercussions for apps, advertising networks, social game networks, analytics firms and others because it removes a way for them to easily offer their services.”
  • Developers say that alternative solutions are being discussed privately (due to non-disclosure agreements with Apple).

HP Update: We Say Farewell to TouchPad and WebOS

  • HP has decided to end its recently launched TouchPad tablet and will take a $100 million loss on unsold inventory. (Interestingly, tech columnist Andy Ihnatko was getting ready to write a mixed but generally positive review of the TouchPad for the Chicago Sun-Times.)
  • Additionally, on the heels of the company announcing it would be integrating its webOS with smart appliances and other devices, HP now says there will be no more webOS phones. It did apparently leave the option open to licensing webOS to third parties.
  • In related news, AllThingsD reports that HP’s recent decision to stop the development of its webOS puts it’s personal computer business in a perilous position, and rumors are spreading as to what the company’s next step will be.
  • The most likely option involves a spin-off PC business as a separate company, much like Motorola did at the beginning of the year.
  • If HP decides to sell instead, it is likely that an Asian company will step forward to make the purchase — and the front-runner seems to be Samsung. The predicted price if a sale were to occur is placed at around $20 billion.

Forget the TouchPad for Now: HP Wants to See webOS Everywhere

  • Despite the TouchPad’s dismal retail performance, HP is forging ahead with webOS.
  • HP is in talks to license webOS for use in smart appliances, cars, gadgets “and just about anything else that has a screen,” reports Digital Trends.
  • The company is taking a similar stance to that of Google with Android in terms of integrating the OS in smart appliances and other devices. HP plans to integrate webOS into all of its computers by next year.
  • “I happen to believe that webOS is a uniquely outstanding operating system,” said HP CEO Leo Apotheker during the D9 conference. “It’s not correct to believe that it should only be on HP devices. There are all kinds of other people who want to make whatever kind of hardware they make and would like to connect them to the Internet.”
  • “We are fans of webOS,” explains Digital Trends, “but if HP hopes to expand the platform, it will have to deal with the performance issues we’ve seen on the TouchPad and Palm Pre devices and work to drum up more interest from the developer community.”

Online Privacy Protection Act Applies to Mobile App for First Time

  • The Federal Trade Commission ruled Monday that W3 Innovations, the company behind popular mobile applications for kids, including “Emily’s Girl World” and “Emily’s Dress Up,” should pay a $50,000 penalty for collecting personal information from kids without parental permission.
  • The commission found the company in violation of the Children’s Online Privacy Protection Act, marking the first time that law has been applied to a mobile application.
  • “The F.T.C.’s COPPA Rule requires parental notice and consent before collecting children’s personal information online, whether through a Web site or a mobile app,” explained Jon Leibowitz, chairman of the commission. “Companies must give parents the opportunity to make smart choices when it comes to their children’s sharing of information on smart phones.”
  • The decision coincides with a period of increased concern about privacy and mobile technology, as the industry considers new privacy protections to fend off potential federal regulation.

Touchscreen Inventor Says Haptics will be Next Step for Mobile Devices

  • What’s next for mobile devices now that capacitive touchscreens have become the standard?
  • According to Synaptics technology strategist Andrew Hsu (and inventor of modern touchscreen technology for mobile handsets), the answer could be haptic technologies that allow us to feel individual touchscreen elements.
  • “Where I see the next frontier of user interface control is that we now want to try and recreate the tactility we lost from traditional hardware interfaces,” says Hsu. “Now that we’ve gotten dynamic touch and visual interfaces, it’s time to look towards dynamic touch feedback.”
  • Hsu hasn’t make any final judgements on 3D technology yet, although VentureBeat sees it as less significant than haptics at this point: “There’s plenty of potential in mobile gaming (imagine actually feeling buttons and joysticks again), and it would also make modern touchscreen phones more accessible for the disabled and elderly. I’d much rather the mobile industry move towards screens that can dynamically generate braille text for the blind to touch, rather than focusing on making us cross-eyed with tiny 3D screens.”

Caps on Mobile Data Plans: No More All-You-Can-Eat Buffets

  • As smartphones gain greater market penetration, and data-intensive applications become more popular, cellular carriers are creating limits on how much data customers can consume, and raising the price of that data.
  • T-Mobile, AT&T and Verizon have all phased out their unlimited plans, and introduced tiered plans that charge customers based on how much data they consume. Only Sprint still offers an unlimited data plan.
  • Some developers worry that the caps will stifle innovation of data-intensive applications, and that customers may blame the applications if they go over their limits. This problem is compounded by the fact that consumers have no intuitive sense of how much data a given application may be using.
  • Industry analysts predict that the availability of data will become an increasingly important profit stream for cellular carriers, and a key point of competition between them.

Rdio for iPad App: Streaming Music Better Than Spotify?

  • Rdio has released a free iPad version of its streaming music app. According to the Gizmodo review: “Spotify may be stealing all the hype and pub for streaming music services but let’s not kid around here, Rdio still makes the best music apps across any platform.”
  • The review raves about the app based largely on its selection, album art, social aspects and quality music player.
  • Users can listen via their iPad headphones or through other devices thanks to AirPlay support — a feature that particularly appeals to the staff at Gizmodo: “I always thought it was funny to use the iPad as your music player but when you think about it, Rdio + AirPlay + Big Honking Screen gives you the biggest remote control in the house for the best audio system in your house with all the streaming music not in your house.”
  • For a better look at the interface, the post includes a brief video demo.

Next for HBO GO Platform: PS3, Xbox 360, Blu-ray Players

  • Time Warner launched the HBO GO platform earlier this year, with Android and iPhone apps that stream HBO content to mobile devices.
  • TG Daily reports that HBO GO may soon be “getting optimized” for TVs, with the platform becoming available on the PS3, Xbox 360, and other Internet-ready devices.
  • “It may seem like a pointless feature, because if you’re watching your TV, you could just tune into your cable box and watch HBO On Demand from there,” explains TG Daily. “But this way, you’d be able to take your HBO subscription to a friend’s house, or watch content on the app that may not be available on the current HBO On Demand library.”
  • In addition to regular programming content, HBO GO provides exclusive content (such as behind-the-scenes clips) and an intuitive video search interface featuring customizable lists.

Unlocked iPhone Could Impact the Subsidized Carrier Model

  • While Apple has been working on the design elegance and overall quality of its iPhone, the existing business model with carrier partners has allowed the company to hide the true cost of the device in two-year contracts. Apple’s upcoming iPhone 5 launch may change this model.
  • The company is rumored to be considering a $350 price point for an entry level unlocked iPhone.
  • T-GAAP reports: “The main purpose for such a device is to penetrate China and other regions which are not fond of subsidized programs. If Apple can deliver an unlocked iPhone starting at $350, the impact in China will be stunning, and send U.S. and European carriers scrambling.”
  • If this is the case, consumers would be able to purchase an iPhone from the Apple Store and select any prepaid plan of their choosing (such as an “all-you-can-eat $50 month-to-month T-Mobile or Cricket or Boost plan”).
  • Carriers would most likely push other phones, but it may be too late for that based on consumer demand. Their next move could be lower entry prices for the iPhone.
  • “Plan on AT&T, Verizon and Sprint offering two-year contract plans for the iPhone 5 starting at $149,” suggests T-GAAP. “Carriers wil be scrambling to protect a model that has done them so well for the past 15 years. However, Apple is about to pull it all apart with a single product launch.”

BBC iPlayer Expands Internationally with New iPad App

  • The BBC’s popular iPlayer is an on-demand broadband television and radio service that has been available in Great Britain for four years.
  • As of last week, the service is now available through an iPad app to 11 countries in western Europe (Austria, Belgium, France, Germany, Italy, Luxembourg, Ireland, the Netherlands, Portugal, Spain and Switzerland) — with plans to launch in the U.S., Canada and Australia by the end of the year as a pilot program.
  • The app will allow users to stream programs over 3G and Wi-Fi, with the option to download for later viewing offline. International users will have access to some content for free, while full access will be subscription-based.
  • Luke Bradley-Jones, managing director of BBC.com, describes iPlayer as a VOD service: “We will have content from the last month, but also the best from the catalog stretching back 50 to 60 years.” He added, “What we’re trying to test in the pilot is the ability to drive exploration and discovery through a programming approach rather than an algorithm-based approach. We’re not trying to compete against a Netflix or a Hulu. This has to be tailored and hand-crafted, so we can create a tone of voice.”

Apple iOS Facial Recognition Could Change Mobile Interaction

  • Reports are circulating this week that Apple will reportedly release facial recognition capabilities for iOS 5 as an open API for developers.
  • The technology was made available as a result of Apple purchasing Swedish facial recognition algorithm specialist Polar Rose in 2010.
  • Polar Rose is the developer behind Recognizr, which Digital Trends describes as “a social media linking app co-developed with TAT that recognizes users and displays their network profiles on-screen.”
  • The iOS API can determine where a user’s mouth and eyes are located, and can process images for face detection, which introduces new possibilities for Faces and iPhoto. Since it is an open API, we should expect that third party developers will create more advanced facial recognition applications.
  • GigaOM reports: “It’s not something Apple is advertising about with the software update yet, but as it develops, it could become one of the most significant additions ever introduced to Apple’s mobile operating system.”

Unreleased Facebook iPad App Discovered Inside iPhone App

  • Facebook’s iPad app may be closer to launch than earlier reported, since a fully operational version was recently discovered “hidden” inside the current iPhone app.
  • The iPad app reportedly has a more modern look than the “tired old” iPhone version, resembling Twitter’s iPad app. The navigational features are said to be intuitively positioned whether the device is held vertically or horizontally.
  • According to Wired writer Charlie Sorrel: “Facebook has managed to fully port the signature confusion of its website to a tablet app, a not insignificant achievement.”
  • The iPad app has also been described as “spectacular.” For those who can’t wait for the official release, the CNN post includes a link for instructions to get it running from inside the iPhone app.