The business and culture of our digital lives,
from the L.A. Times
Twitter on Friday released Bootstrap, an online toolkit for developers looking to build new web apps, or even clean up some of the code they already have.
Bootstrap is an open source set of files written in CSS (or Cascading Style Sheets, a programming language used to dictate how a website or web app looks and works) that covers some of the building blocks of most web apps, such as buttons, tables and forms, page templates, app navigation and even stylistic matters such as typography and color gradients.
The simple and small tools (at about only six kilobytes in size) released by Twitter, on the popular code sharing site GitHub, are the same basic tools used by Twitter developers for the social network’s own webpages and apps, Mark Otto, a designer at Twitter, said in a blog post.
Earlier on at Twitter, programmers were more focused on building the social network to meet users’ needs than building it with coding consistency, Otto said.
“Inconsistencies among the individual applications made it difficult to scale and maintain them,” he said. “Bootstrap began as an answer to these challenges.”
Now, the same tools Twitter users are open to the Web and anyone who wants to use them or make them better, or “fork” the tools and modify them to build something else, Otto said.
“Bootstrap works by providing a clean and uniform solution to the most common, everyday interface tasks developers come across,” he said. “We want to keep working on slimming down Bootstrap’s already tiny footprint while also increasing the breadth of what it covers. As always, we’d love your feedback and hope you find it useful. If you’d like to help make Bootstrap better, feel free to fork it, file issues and watch its progress over on GitHub.”
The Web was abuzz Friday with a rumor we’ve all been hearing for months — that the iPad 3, whenever it comes out, will be outfitted with Apple’s retina display.
Double the resolution, up to 2,048 by 1,536 from the iPad 1 and iPad 2’s 1,024 by 768 for a crisp 326 dpi (dots, or pixels, per inch) matching the density of the much-loved screen on the iPhone 4 — that’s the rumor and the latest to report that this is happening from unnamed sources oversees: the Wall Street Journal.
The journal says the retina-display-packing iPad 3 will hit stores early next year, while others have said such a device could launch this fall or winter. Either way, nothing is official as of yet — an Apple doesn’t comment on rumors. The Cupertino tech giant hasn’t yet said anything about the next iPad and the iPad 2 is enjoying huge sales.
But, with a growing swarm of tablet competitors running various versions of Google’s Android mobile OS (rest in peace HP TouchPad), the iPad 3 might have to be more than simply thinner, lighter, faster and equipped with a better screen.
In that vein, here are five unsolicited features that we’d like to see on the next iPad — or any tablet for that matter.
Thinner and lighter
This may seem obvious, but while the iPad 2 is svelte, Samsung’s Galaxy Tab 10.1 is barely thinner and yup, even lighter. However, the Galaxy Tab 10.1 achieves this with the use of a plastic back that feels much flimsier in the hand than the iPad 2’s aluminum body. Apple has used plastic and glass to create thinner and lighter iPhones and this might be an option in the iPad 3. Another idea for Apple might be the use of something similar to the grippy, rubberized plastic feel of the Motorola Xoom.
Among the biggest knocks on the iPad is that its glossy screen reflects too much light and is therefore no fun to take outside and read by the pool or on the beach. (Yes, it’s a good problem to have.) But it’s a serious issue for Apple, which wants to become a major player in the electronic book market and compete with Amazon’s Kindle, the leading e-book reader. The Kindle has a matte-type screen that diffuses light rather than reflect it — so why shouldn’t the iPad have a glare-proof screen?
As Apple offers with its MacBook Pro laptops, an anti-glare screen and a glossy screen could be offered so consumers can choose what they want.
Apple seems to have become an accidental force in the mobile gaming industry. It’s iPhone and iPad have inspired developers to make hundreds (if not thousands) of affordable games with low barriers to entry. The iPad 2 offers impressive graphics performance and the iPad 3, which will assuredly make use of a faster processor, will see a bump here as well. But if Apple wants to make the iPad an ever better gaming machine, it needs to give gamers a rumbling iPad, one that vibrates and shakes in response to the video games played on screen in the same way that every home gaming console’s controllers do.
This isn’t impossible by any means. Many Android phones and tablets already feature haptic, or tactile, feedback when using keyboards and other functions. Of course, this would have to be a feature that could be turned off or on for those who do or don’t want to make use of the rumble.
The physical security of mobile devices is still rather limited. Users are able to protect their phones and tablets with a four-digit unlock code, but many don’t even bother, leaving their iPads and Androids vulnerable if they leave them in a coffee shop or taxi cab. So why not add another layer of security — like iris scanning? Companies like Hoyos Group make iris identification systems that scan 2,048 points in the eye’s most colorful layer — the software can even detect “liveness” so, you know, no one can use some dead guy’s eye to break into an iPad.
Apple’s iOS 5 will enable iPad and iPhone owners to “cut the cord” and wirelessly sync songs, contacts, apps and plenty of other content whenever Apple mobile devices are near their Mac computer counterparts. And, with iOS 5, users will even be able to download operating system updates “over the air” without having to plug their i-device into a computer for the latest software. This can be taken a step further with wireless charging.
The technology is already proven. Many third-parties accessory makers offer wireless charging products for phones, tablets and even TV remotes. Hewlett-Packard had built wireless charging into its HP TouchPad as well. All TouchPad users had to do was lay their tablets into a charging dock and it would charge right up, no need to plug any cables into the device itself. Post-PC should be post cables and wires too.
Free alternatives may cut into text messaging profits
August 21, 2011|By Salvador Rodriguez, Los Angeles Times
Apple’s upcoming iMessage service, Facebook’s new Messenger app and other no-cost options could diminish a revenue stream for the wireless industry that totaled about $21 billion last year
Chinn, 37, sends most of his text messages free of charge with Google Voice and a smartphone application. He also pays $5 a month for up to 200 messages on his AT&T mobile phone plan.
“With everything with the mobile carriers, I feel I’m getting nickeled and dimed,” said Chinn, of San Francisco. “I resent paying so much for text messaging, and I feel that it’s not a reasonable price to pay for something that costs the carriers next to nothing.”
It’s customers like Chinn who are worrying the big telecommunication companies. Text messaging has been a huge profit center for AT&T, Verizon, Sprint and T-Mobile, but that money could trickle away as free alternatives gain popularity.
Facebook Inc., for example, recently launched a smartphone app called Messenger that enables users to communicate with anyone who is a Facebook friend or has a cellphone number. And this fall, Apple Inc. will roll out iMessage, enabling the millions of iPhone and iPad owners to send messages to one another over the Internet at no cost.
In addition to free apps, the growing popularity of smartphones — which can handle both email and texting apps — are dimming text messaging’s future as a profit center.
“There is a change coming, and it will have a serious impact on messaging traffic in mature markets, starting with the U.S.,” said John White, a business development director at Portio Research. “We see iMessage and Facebook messaging as the biggest players [and] this will start to impact right away.”
Juniper Research has predicted that global revenue for text messaging will peak this year and begin to drift down. And in a recent report, UBS Investment Research warned that “customers could elect not to pay for texting as smartphones and third-party applications become pervasive.”
Text messaging’s popularity exploded around 2005, driven by teenagers and young adults who adopted the format as an easy way to communicate on the go, similar to the instant messaging function on their computers.
And text messaging is still a big business, accounting for an estimated $21 billion in U.S. revenue for telecom companies last year and an estimated $23 billion this year, according to the Consumer Federation of America.
But growth in message traffic slowed for the first time to single digits — 8.7% — in the last half of last year compared with the previous six months, according to U.S. wireless trade group CTIA.
Typically, wireless carriers have charged separately for text messaging, multimedia messaging and data plans, which provide Internet access. Though they have offered unlimited plans for each category, carriers have been pulling back recently, limiting particularly how much a customer can use the Internet.
Sony Ericsson has unveiled a new Android smartphone with Walkman branding that touts unique music-centric features. Dubbed the Live with Walkman, the handset will feature a dedicated Walkman button for quick access to your music. But, it’s different from previous Walkman-branded devices in that it also features deep Facebook integration for music sharing and discovering.
The Live with Walkman will sport a 3.2-inch 480 x 320 touchscreen display powered by a single-core 1GHz processor with 380MB of RAM. It will have a front-facing VGA camera for Skype video calling, a 5-megapixel rear-facing auto-focus camera capable of 720p HD video recording, WiFi, Bluetooth, GPS, DLNA, and Sony’s xLOUD system for enhanced audio output.
Additionally, the handset will have deep integration with Sony’s Qriocity for music content. However, it’s interesting to note that the press image above shows the device playing music through Spotify, which makes us wonder whether the music service would also come preloaded.
The Live with Walkman will run on Android 2.3 Gingerbread and is expected to arrive later this fall, possibly in October. It will be available worldwide in select markets, but no pricing information has been disclosed yet.
Earthquake coming? There’s an app for that
Apple has included an early-warning service in the next version of its Japanese iPhones
No one knows better than the Japanese what a difference a few minutes — or even seconds — warning can mean when a major earthquake or tsunami is on its way. That’s why they have developed the world’s most sophisticated early warning system.
9to5Mac reports that the latest beta of iOS 5 — the new mobile operating system Apple (AAPL) is scheduled to deliver this fall — includes a toggle switch on Japanese iPhones that, when flipped on, will alert users whenever it’s time to take shelter.
GigaOm‘s Darrell Etherington points out that Japanese feature phones have been offering access to the same early warning service for several years. But he suggests that its appearance in iOS 5 beta may signal an initiative on Apple’s part to provide localized warning services in other parts of the world. Mexico has a similar earthquake warning system, for example, and California is working on one that’s expected to come online in 2013. Meanwhile, now that the iPhone’s creaky notification system has finally been rewritten, perhaps Apple will start offering different kinds of built-in alerts — wildfires in the American West, floods in the East, tornadoes in the MidWest, etc.
Google to Open-Source Android App Inventor
Google’s App Inventor is a free online tool that lets you build your own apps, for smartphones running its Android operating system. It doesn’t require any programming experience, so you don’t need to type a single line of code; just fit pieces together like in a puzzle.
Android is open-source, which means that the programming code is available online for free, for anyone who wants to take it and make something with it. App Inventor, however, is not, meaning that those who use it are dependent on Google’s good graces to keep it open.
The bad news for App Inventor fans: Google’s good graces are running out. The company has announced that it will take App Inventor down within the next 90 days. But the good news is that it has also said it will make the programming code open-source, so that anyone can use it on their own. It will also give special attention to “support[ing] the educational use of App Inventor.”
The Beginning of the End for the Apple App Store
If Apple thinks it can woo iPad owners forever with its shiny user-friendly apps and its cute matching app store, the company is deluded. Amazon and Walmart have challenged Apple to a duel with the release of the Kindle Cloud Reader and Walmart’s Vudu streaming site. Beginning a few weeks ago Apple began enforcing its new in-app subscription rules, demanding a 30 percent cut for all sales directly from e-reader apps, as we reported. Companies like Amazon and now Barnes and Noble removed their links from the app store, refusing to pay up to Apple. But that stinks for readers who now have to go through a few extra taps to buy new reads. And it’s extra lame for companies looking to sell their wares to iPad owners, who either have to suck it up and give Apple a large chunk of their sales, or forgo the app store link and inevitably lose some lazy readers. So Apple and its app store win, keeping their delights within the app store walls. But with the release of these independent cloud stores, where users can get the same experience without entering the app store cage, these companies are showing their customers and Apple that they don’t need an app store to exist on the iPad.
These services allow Amazon and Walmart to sidestep Apple’s 30 percent cut and also benefit their customers, who also avoid any contact with Apple’s app store. Both sites were launched as a direct response to Apple’s oppressive app store rules. Instead of paying up for direct app store links, Walmart took an alternative anti-app store route, releasing the Vudu streaming site, which bypasses the Apple app store while still providing that same Apple app experience. “It’s not an app,” Edward Lichty, general manager of Vudu, told Reuters’s Alastair Barr. “It’s an all-browser experience. But you access it in a similar way.”
You can put what looks like an app icon on your iPad, but when you tap it takes you to a streaming site. Similarly the Kindle Cloud Reader site, which like the Kindle app allows users to purchase and store books on the iPad, explains TechCrunch’s MG Siegler. “It’s a web-based version of their Kindle eBook reader app. It allows you to read your books from the cloud or to download your books for offline reading thanks to the magic of HTML 5 (or a Chrome browser extension). It looks and works great.” No app store, no problem. And just think: if Amazon and Walmart blaze this trail, others might follow.
Not only do companies get out of app store clutches, they make it easy for customers to forget they ever needed Apple. Because they look and work pretty much like an app, this makes things way easier for customers. Before they had to purchase through the web browser. Now you can shop more directly.