Apple just launched iTunes Match, its cloud-based music backup and streaming service for iOS, Mac and PC. With iTunes Match, users can store up to 25,000 of their own songs from iTunes in the cloud. Unlike others music locker services (including Google Music and Amazon’s music locker), Apple managed to get a license from the music labels that allows it to just check whether it offers a certain song you have in your library in its store and then make that copy available for you
Amazon today announced that its new $199 Kindle Fire, which will go on sale next week, will feature apps from Facebook, Netflix, Rhapsody, Pandora and Zynga. Several thousand more apps will follow next week. Until now, there really wasn’t much of a market for tablets, there was really only a market for the iPad. Clearly, that’s changing very quickly, though. With Amazon and Barnes & Noble getting into the market, their cheaper (and smaller) tablets could hurt Apple’s position as the dominant tablet player.
Weekends tend to be rather slow when it comes to tech news, but thanks to the launch of Walter Isaacson's biography of Steve Jobs, even those sites that usually don't cover Apple news in detail kept pumping out stories as more and more details from the book leaked before today's release date. The book, in its various e-Book and hardcover editions currently dominates Amazon's sales charts, just as it dominated the tech news over the weekend. Having read about a quarter through the book by now, I have to say that it's definitely worth a read - not just for the insights into Jobs' life and thoughts, but also because it’s a fascinating history of Silicon Valley and the players that made it what it is today.
I was browsing Apple’s App Store yesterday, looking for some interesting new games to play during a very long flight I have coming up later this week. One of the apps that stood out as I was browsing the role-playing games section was GAMEVIL’s Destinia (iTunes link). It’s the #1 role-playing game in the U.S. store, has almost 5,000 reviews and a 5-star rating. There are not too many 5-star games out there for $0.99, so I took the plunge. Sadly, the game is a major disappointment. The graphics aren’t optimized for the iPhone 4’s display, the controls are bad, the music repetitive and it’s just plain boring as a game. So how did it get a 5-star rating?
Amazon’s Kindle Fire tablet runs Android, has a nice screen, is fast, cheap ($199), features an innovative browser, and – thanks to being an Android tablet at heart – offers support for thousands of apps out of the box. I doubt, however, that it’s a major threat to the iPad. The tablet manufacturers that should be very worried however, are those who are also in the Android business, including Barnes & Noble with its $249 Nook Color. The reason for this, I think, is Amazon’s superior ecosystem and the low price.
When I opened Spotify on my desktop this morning, a pop-up informed me that “Spotify Loves Social” and that I should discover “great music with [my] friends.” To get started doing just that, all I had to do was click “Get Started.” Spotify also conveniently pre-checked the opt-in to Facebook’s new Open Graph feature. I’m not sure most mainstream users will understand that opting in to the pre-checked Open Graph opt-in means that all their listening data will not just be forwarded to Facebook, but that their friends will likely see everything they play on the Facebook ticker as well. As Spotify now forces its users to have a Facebook account, chances are quite a few people will sign up for this “service” unwittingly.
No matter what you think about this, though, it’s clear that the future of music is social. Facebook has partnered with everybody who is anything in this business, including Spotify, Slacker, turntable.fm, iHeartRadio, MOG, SoundCloud and Rhapsody. The one exception: Apple.
Steve Jobs just resigned as CEO of Apple. According to Apple, he will be succeeded by Apple's current Chief Operating Officer Tim Cook who has long been considered his logical successor. Jobs will remain the Chairman of the Board and an Apple employee.
Google today announced that it plans to acquire Motorola Mobility - the Motorola's cellphone and set-top box division - for about $12.5 billion. This is obviously a major deal and suddenly turns Google from a company mostly focused on software into a hardware manufacturer as well. While Google aims to run both businesses separately - and stressed that even Motorola will have to compete for Google's business - the fact that Google's headcount just grew by about 60% shows that this acquisition will have a massive impact on the company in the long run.
Google+ offers a pretty nice mobile web experience, but it’s relatively slow and limited when compared to the full web client on the desktop. While Android users have had access to a native Google+ app since launch – including access to Google’s Huddle group messaging feature – iPhone users had to wait for Apple to approve the app. That approval has finally come and the native iPhone app is now available in the App Store.
One thing that as always bothered me about Apple’s app stores is the fact that all sales are final. While Apple has sometimes made exceptions – as in the case of its own Final Cut X – you can’t test an app for a few hours and then return it if it doesn’t live up to your expectations. Now, however, it looks like Apple could be slowly changing this policy. As MacRumors notes, the company’s Taiwanese Mac App Store, App Store, and iBookstore now allow for returns within a seven-day window after a user has purchased an app or book.
I'm a jaded tech blogger, but Microsoft's HoloLens project is without doubt the most exciting project to come out of Redmond in years. After years of talk about augmented reality, this may be the first project that actually lives up to the hype.