Some Of The Many Things We Are Interested In:

Google’s App Inventor Down in 90 Days

Google to Open-Source Android App Inventor

By Jared Spurbeck

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.”

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Amazon and Walmart have challenged Apple

The Beginning of the End for the Apple App Store

Rebecca Greenfield

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.

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iPad for the Blind

Braille iPad case concept could make tablets usable for the blind

The iPad is the best-selling consumer tablet, but it — and every other entry into the slate market — is rendered unusable to those without the ability to see. That could change if the Omnifer Braille iPad case ever moves from concept to store shelves. The unique folding case isn’t just protective, it also features a high-tech raised Braille technology that could be used with special apps, opening a whole new world to those with vision impairments.

The case covers roughly half of the iPad’s screen with a special Braille section that responds to changes in light. The glow of the tablet’s 9.7″ display would activate a special light-reactive chemical, and raise portions of the Braille section to be readable. Custom apps would be created to utilize this unique feature. As the area of the screen behind the Braille section changes, so would the raised bumps, opening the door to apps like digital magazines designed specifically for the blind.

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Droid deal: Google to buy Motorola Mobility for $12.5 billion

By Brandon Bailey

In a move that changes the landscape of the highly competitive mobile devices industry, Google (GOOG) said Monday that it will pay $12.5 billion to acquire phone-maker Motorola Mobility.

The deal, which has been approved by the boards of both companies, will give Google its own hardware products and allow it to compete more closely with phone- and tablet-makers such as Apple (AAPL), Hewlett-Packard (HPQ) and the new alliance between Microsoft and Nokia.

It also gives Google access to thousands of patents held by Motorola, which pioneered the cellphone business. Analysts said that could help the Mountain View company stave off a barrage of patent claims levied by Apple, Microsoft and other rivals against Google’s Android operating system.

Fundamentally, the decision to buy Motorola underscores the growing importance of mobile computing to Google, which draws most of its revenue from selling advertising associated with Internet searches, as consumers and workers

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Touch Pad Prices Drop

HP’s Slashing TouchPad Price May be Smart No. 2 Play to Catch Apple

By David Zielenziger | August 12, 2011 11:01 AM EDT

HP‘s slashing its TouchPad tablet down to $399 might look like a setback against Apple’s market-leading iPads but may actually be part of a shrewd strategy to be a prosperous No. 2.

After all, handheld instruments are a part of the vaunted “HP Way,” the founding philosophy of co-founders Bill Hewlett and David Packard who started the company in 1939 making handheld devices. True, later CEOs spun off that part of the HP businesses as Agilent Technologies, but quality, good engineering and reliability have always been part of the HP culture.

There’s nothing wrong with being a No. 2 or even a No. 3 in a field that’s brand new. Meanwhile, the Palo Alto, Calif.-based computer services giant can allow Apple, based in Cupertino, Calif., to keep the lead, with all its sex appeal and be regarded as a steady rival.

HP also has loads of in-house technology as well as a storehouse of patents, including many pioneering wireless and software ones that came with its $10.2 billion acquisition of Palm in 2010. Palm’s webOS mobile operating system was one of the first back in the days when its co-founders, Jeff Hawkins and Donna Dubinsky, more or less invented a technology that’s taken for granted. Now it underlies the TouchPad.

As well, HP, ranked usually as either No. 1 or No. 2 in the PC market in the U.S., does well with consumers and is solid in the education market. So timing the TouchPad price cut  — to about $100 below the iPad during back-to-school season fits the strategy.

So far, HP hasn’t said how many TouchPads have been sold since they started shipping in late May. But next week, when the company is scheduled to announce third-quarter results, that clearly will be one of the questions for new CEO Leo Apotheker.

True, when it was introduced, TouchPad’s first buyers noted the product wasn’t as much fun as the iPad but it garnered decent reviews.

By contrast, Apple announced last month it shipped 9.3 million iPads just in its June quarter. The company, as usual, got a premium on its margins from the iPad’s premium price.

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“DIY” Tools for Building Mobile Device Apps

30+ Tools for Building Mobile Apps

By

Over a year ago, we posted a round-up of DIY mobile development tools entitled “13 Tools for Building Your Own iPhone App,” which has been one of our long-standing top posts of all time. Clearly, there’s interest in this area.

But focusing on just “DIY” tools for just the iPhone platform is an outdated way of looking at mobile development, if we do say so ourselves. Android, Windows Phone 7, BlackBerry, Symbian and other platforms are now important considerations too, as is the mobile Web itself. Plus, there is a wide range of services supporting mobile development all the way from DIY kits up to developer-friendly, cross-platform SDKs.

 

This week, we’ve rounded up over 30 services which aid in mobile app development. And now we want to know which ones you would have used, too.

 

Mobile App Development, Services and Tools

 

One of the problems with the original post is that it simply wasn’t comprehensive enough. Commenters quickly reminded us of critical services we missed, even though all weren’t “DIY”-type tools. As the year went on, we were contacted from time-to-time by companies begging us to add them to the original list of 13.

 

Obviously, it was time for an update. But what’s the best way to update a static list like this without falling into the same trap as before? Crowd-sourcing, of course!

 

We created a Google Spreadsheet with the original 13, added to it the other services we knew of, then publicly shared it on the Web. We posted to sites like Twitter, mentioned it in various blog posts here and sent it out via email to companies who had asked for the post to be updated. The end result is an incredibly useful public Google Doc which everyone can view, edit and share as needed. (Don’t worry, we have a backup copy in case someone gets crazy in there. Let us know.)

 

At any given moment, there are over 1,000 people accessing this file these days and, as of the time of writing, it includes 33 services in total. We expect that number may climb after this blog post is published.

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Google Tweaks Android Market Ratings System

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Google recently made a slight change to its Android Market ratings system for the Web, which brings it more in line with competitors like Apple and Amazon. Now, users browsing for apps from a PC Web browser will see more how many people have given an app a particular star rating, as opposed to just an average of all the ratings an app has received.

This is a minor change, to be sure, but an important one for mobile application developers to take note of, as it will now provide potential customers a better, more in-depth look at an app’s user reviews.

Android market ratings 1

Unfortunately, Google has stopped short of a complete ratings makeover with this update, and does not provide a way for a user to jump straight to all the reviews of a particular rating – for example, all the 1-star reviews.

In addition, the new system doesn’t offer to filter reviews by application version, a feature whose absence almost seems unfair, considering that Google has practically designed the Market to be a testing ground for iterative app updates. Because apps don’t have to go through a review process at Google, developers can quickly update their applications to address bugs users complain about in the reviews section. However, it’s hard for potential new users to know if and when those bugs are fixed just by reading the reviews.

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