SiliconFilter

Camera+ 3: The Best iOS Camera App Just Got Better – And You Can Now Use it in Other Apps, Too

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Camera_plus_logoCamera+ is probably the most popular iOS camera app around. Today, taptaptap, the developers of Camera+, launched the latest version of their app ($0.99) and it’s a major step forward for what was arguably already the best camera app for the iPhone. Among other things, Camera+ users can now share their photos quickly to multiple services, create workflows and set focus and exposure independently. In addition, the developers also redesigned the app’s lightbox interface for managing your images and tweaked the app’s filters.

The most important update, however, is that Camera+ now offers third-party developers APIs for integrating the camera into their own iOS and Camera+ images that are stored on the web into their web and mobile apps. WordPress, Tweetbot, Twitterrific, Foodspotting and Twittelator Neue are already using these new features. Once you install the update, for example, you can now choose to take pictures with Camera+ in Tweetbot, edit them in the app and then use them in your tweet.

Here is a full list of the updates in version 3:

★ App icon

The very first thing you’ll notice in Camera+ 3 is its shiny, new icon. It’s essentially the same Camera+ icon that you’ve grown to know and love… but better and much more polished.

★ Dramatically improved sharing

There are two main improvements here… The first is that you can now share to multiple services, or even multiple accounts on the same service, all at the same time. The second big thing that you’ll notice with sharing is the increase in speed. It’s now faster than ever to share your photos online.

★ Multiple photo library import

We’re introducing a great new feature where you can import multiple photos from your photo library all at once.

And we added several fine touches to the import panel. Large thumbnails, zooming to view your photo large, and photo info will help ensure that you’re choosing exactly the photos you want.

★ Workflows

Sometimes you want to shoot a bunch of pics in a row without having to think about things like editing and sharing. And sometimes you want to do just the opposite and edit and share each pic you take, right after you take it. Workflows easily provide you with the flexibility to do it either way

★ Focus & exposure locks

Now you can lock the focus and exposure of the camera, independently of each other. Photographers looking for the utmost flexibility in shooting will love this new feature because it enables all kinds of creative ways of taking awesome shots.

“Bokeh?! I hardly know her!”

★ APIs

We’ve created a few comprehensive APIs for Camera+. These APIs enable people to integrate Camera+ into other apps and to create web services that make use of the many, many photos that have been shared by Camera+ users.

Several prominent developers have already integrated Camera+ into their apps via these new APIs. Check-out the WordPress, Tweetbot, Twitterrific, Foodspotting, and Twittelator Neue apps in the App Store to see these APIs in action.

And to get all the details on how the APIs work, visit http://api.camerapl.us

★ Improved Lightbox UI

We’re a bit obsessive when it comes to user interface and user experience. With Camera+ 3, we’ve reworked several details of the Lightbox to make it even more usable. It’ll take a couple of seconds to get used to the changes but we’re completely confident that you’ll love these improvements almost immediately.

★ Create web link

Many of you used to use the SMS sharing feature (now renamed to Message) for passing web links along to others. Now we’ve got a much better, easier, and dedicated way of doing it.

★ Tuned Clarity

Often imitated but never duplicated, Clarity is one of the things that makes Camera+ what it is. And now it’s even better, especially if you’re using an iPhone 4S.

★ VolumeSnap setting in menu

VolumeSnap is our birthright. That is all.

★ Status bar in Lightbox

In previous versions of Camera+, we didn’t display the status bar (you know… that thingy with the clock, battery level, etc at the top of your screen) when you were in the Lightbox. Well, that’s all changed with this version! Never again miss picking your kids up at soccer practice because you were editing photos and had no clue what time it was.

★ Improved performance

We’ve gone through painstaking steps to improve performance in several parts of the app. It all feels a lot more fluid now. But don’t just take our word on it… try it yourself and see how much nicer it is now.

★ Notifications

Find-out about Camera+ updates, news, and contests. We’ve implemented notifications so they’re not intrusive and they’re opt-in only.

★ Lotsa bug fixes

We’ve identified and fixed several bugs in Camera+. Thanks to all of you who’ve reported any issues you’ve experienced.

★ Various other subtle, but significant enhancements



9:14 am


6 Million Downloads Later, Microsoft Photosynth Goes Global

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Photosynth is, without doubt, one of Microsoft's more impressive mobile apps. The app lets you snap panorama pictures with your iPhone and then upload them to Photosynth.net (and you can even get them featured on Bing Maps). While the mobile app doesn't give you quite as many features as the web app – which allows you to stitch together 3D panoramas by combining images from multiple perspectives – the app has proven to be quite a hit.

According to Microsoft, 6 million iPhone users have downloaded the app so far (though, as usual, it's not clear how many active users there currently are). More importantly, though, the company also today announced that Photosynth is now available worldwide (iTunes link).

Also new in the latest version is a tighter integration with Twitter (via iOS5's built-in Twitter capabilities). 

In case you are unfamiliar with Photosynth, here is Microsoft's description of the app's capabilities:

Capture Full-Sphere Panoramas: Look and capture in all directions more easily than what most of us can do with DSLRs and point-and-shoot cameras.

View immediately: With fast On-Device Processing, you can see the final panorama in a few minutes, without requiring an internet connection or data plan.  Very handy for those impromptu panoramas and immediate gratification that you captured the perfect shot. 

Save locally and on the cloud:  Your panoramas saved on your phone can also be saved and viewed online at http://photosynth.net.

Share immediately:  Share your panorama immediately via Twitter, Facebook or Bing Maps.

View in browser or app: Zoom, pan, and rotate your panorama in any direction through the Photosynth app or through the mobile browser.



11:31 am


In a World of Check-Ins and Social Discovery Apps, EchoEcho Keeps it Simple (and Useful)

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Just like last year, this year's edition of SXSW is once again heavily focused on location-based application. While the genre is slowly moving away from check-ins and virtual badges and more towards "social discovery," though, it's still rather debatable how useful apps like Highlight or Glancee are outside of the conference and Silicon Valley bubble. One location app that has long been going against these trends is the Google Venture-funded EchoEcho. The app does one thing – and it does it well: letting you find out where your friends are and making it easy to meet up with them without compromising anybody's privacy.

Just in time for SXSW, the company just rolled out the fourth version of its app (iTunes link), which features a redesigned interface, a mobile web app and the ability to share your location live with a friend for a set period of time (up to 2 hours).

Using the app is as simple as it gets. You just pick a contact from your phone's address book and simply use the app to ask them where they are. Once your contact receives your request and accepts it, you can both see where both of you are (by requesting somebody's location, you also always share your own location). From there, you can use the app to chat and/or suggest a meeting place.

Two major new features in this version make all of this easier (besides the new design, which is much more streamlined that before): live updates that allow you to share your location in the background, so you know how far away your friends are from the meeting place and a new web app that allows your friends to share their location with you without having to install the app themselves (instead of a push notification from the app, your friends will simply get an SMS with a link to the web app).

Just like previous version of the app, the EchoEcho team continuous to ensure that it's available on all the major mobile platforms, including iOS, Android (these have been updated to 4.0 already), as well as Blackberry, Windows Phone and Symbian (I'm not sure the Symbian app will get an update, though).



3:52 pm


Those Pretty Maps in Apple’s New iPhoto for iOS? That’s OpenStreetMap

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After Apple launched its new photo for iOS yesterday, a number of eagle-eyed users quickly noticed that the company stopped using Google Maps in the application and switched to what, at first, seemed like its own product. It turns out, however, that at least outside of the U.S., the company is using data from the collaboratively edited OpenStreetMap project. The problem with this is that a) Apple isn’t giving credit to OpenStreetMap and b) that the data is actually over a year old. While data from OpenStreetMap is available for use in third-party applications, the group requires attribution under a Creative Commons license.

Here is a nice little hack that allows you to compare Apple’s maps with data from OpenStreetMap and Google.

In a somewhat passive-aggressive statement, OpenStreetMap’s Jonathan Bennett notes that the data Apple is using is from April 2010 and that it is “also missing the necessary credit to OpenStreetMap’s contributors.” OpenStreetMap, however, is looking “forward to working with Apple to get that [the credit] on there.”

Over the years, there have been quite a few rumors about Apple launching its own mapping product and its still not clear where Apple is getting its U.S. maps from. In Europe and other parts of the world, though, it looks like the company is taking a bit of a shortcut and is implicitly claiming credit for data that doesn’t belong to it. What is clear, though, is that Apple is definitely working on replacing Google Maps across its product range.



7:26 am


PocketCloud: Wyse Wants to Become the Hub of Your Personal Cloud

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Wyse, a company that is better known for offering remote desktop solutions to enterprise companies than for its consumer offerings, is now bringing PocketCloud Explore, its app for easily managing files across multiple desktops, operating systems and mobile devices, to the iPhone (it was already available on Android). I got a demo of the app at the Mobile World Congress in Barcelona this week and it's quite an impressive service that indeed works as seamlessly as the company promises.

What makes Wyse's solution so interesting and different from what, at first glance seem like similar offerings from Box.net or Dropbox, is that the company is combining remote desktop access and easy mobile and web access to files that are running on your computer at home (and that are only accessible while that computer is on and connected to the Internet) with its own cloud-based file-storage service. Wyse also offers a cloud-storage service with 2GB of free storage, the PocketCloud Web Cloubin, which allows users to easily upload documents into the cloud and then share them with their friends and colleagues.

PocketCloud Explore app store

The mobile Explore app for iOS doesn't feature any built-in editing capabilities, but it does integrate with the editing apps that are already on your devices (think QuickOffice or DocumentsToGo, for example).

To get started with the service, users have to register and install a small piece of software on the desktops they want to use.

Pricing

The service uses a fermium model. The paid version, which will only code $1 per month for now, will allow you to access data from more computers (up to 10) and share files up to 500MB in size (up from 25MB in the free version). The free version also restricts the length of audio and video clips you can stream from your computer to your phone to 30 seconds in length. The paid version doesn't have this limitation.



3:45 am


Opera Launches Opera Mobile 12 Browser for Android and Symbian, Opera Mini 7 For iOS

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Opera just announced the next version of its mobile browser for Android and Symbian, as well as a developer version of its more stripped-down Opera Mini browser. While the update doesn't feature any major changes in the user interface, the Opera team has made numerous changes underneath the surface. Most importantly, Opera added support for its advanced HTML5 parser Ragnarok, which should make running web apps on your mobile phone quite a bit faster. This will also allow developers to create more sophisticated web applications that can run in your phone's browser.

Another feature that should speed up the browsing experience is Opera's newly announced support for using your phone's or tablet's graphics hardware to accelerate 3D content in your browser.

In addition, Opera added support for using an Android device's camera in the browser, as well as support for web standards like CSS3 and CORS.

Even if you don't own an Android or Symbian phone, you will soon be able to use Opera's web-based and desktop emulators to try it out yourself. If you have Opera 12 installed on your phone or tablet, also have a look at the company's demo site.

Opera Mini: Version 7 for iOS and a New Developer Version

As for Opera Mini, Opera today launched the final version of Opera Mini 7 for iOS, as well as a developer version – Opera calls these 'Opera Next.' The Next version is Opera's way of beta testing new features before they are officially released. So if you want to get an early look at some of the browser's features (this version brings smoother scrolling and a new bookmarking interface, for example, give Opera Mini Next a try. It's available for feature phones using Java, as well as Android, Blackberry and S60 phones.

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3:44 am


Hands-On With Apple’s Mountain Lion: Don’t Like Change? You’ll Love this Update

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While Microsoft is working on its most significant operating system update in recent memory, Apple just released the first developer preview of Mountain Lion, the next update to OS X. Mountain Lion is scheduled for a public release in the summer. As with Apple's Leopard to Snow Leopard update, the company is clearly indicating that this is a minor update – and indeed, after spending a few days with Mountain Lion as my main operating system now, I still sometimes forget that I'm not using Lion.

The New Stuff in Mountain Lion: More About Apps than the Operating System

About This Mac

Unless you are deeply embedded in the Apple lifestyle and use an AppleTV, for example, or use Apple's default email app, chances are you won't notice too much new in Mountain Lion.

Sure, the Messages app is cool and useful – but that's really just an app that you could run on Snow Leopard as well (assuming Apple continues to support it after the general release of Mountain Lion). Indeed, most of the updates like the new Reminders and Notes apps are more about these new apps than the operating system.

Personally, I don't really care for the deeper Twitter integration, a new, more Chrome-like version of Safari or having access to Game Center in Mountain Lion. I never felt like I needed an easier way to share anything on Twitter and I don't play games on my Mac.

The interesting new features to me are support for AirPlay in OS X, as it yes another move by Apple to get the Mac closer to the living room (and maybe also a precursor to the iTV) and Gatekeeper, the new security feature in OS X that is meant to protect you from malware. If you own an AppleTV, AirPlay alone is likely with the upgrade.

The other update that you will likely use quite regularly is the Notifications bar. That, indeed, is a very iOS-like feature, but one that actually feels completely at home on the desktop, too (unlike the Launchpad Apple introduced with Lion). Only Apple's own apps currently make use of it, but once more developers integrate it into their applications, chances are you will use it all the time and wonder how you ever worked without it.

Mountain Lion Isn't Going to Turn Your Mac into an iPad

If you are worried about the "iOSification" of the Mac, Mountain Lion isn't the update to worry about. The update really isn't about convergence as it is about convenience. The deeper iCloud integration makes keeping you address books, notes and files in sync between your different devices easier, the rather useless iOS-like Launchpad app is still there, but you don't have to use it (I know I never do).

Nothing in Mountain Lion – except for maybe Gatekeeper if you set it to its most restrictive setting – takes anything away from what you can currently do in Lion.

Mountain Lion and Windows 8: Two Very Different Updates

Even though Apple obviously announced Mountain Lion just ahead of Microsoft's unveiling of the public beta of Windows 8, these are two completely different updates. With Windows 8, Microsoft is trying to reinvent its operating system to a degree that is closer to going from Mac OS 9 to OS X. While Microsoft is baking its tablet OS into its desktop OS (and we still have to see how successful it will be in doing this), Apple is just making the interplay between the desktop and mobile more convenient.



11:02 am


Address Book-Gate: U.S. Congress Members Ask Apple About its Role

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Two members of the U.S. Congress, Energy and Commerce Committee Ranking Member Henry A. Waxman and Commerce, Manufacturing, and Trade Subcommittee Ranking Member G. K. Butterfield, sent a letter to Apple's CEO Tim Cook this morning, asking for Apple's role in the recent scandal surrounding apps that quietly upload a user's address book to their servers. Specifically, the two congressmen want to know "whether Apple’s iOS app developer policies and practices may fall short when it comes to protecting the information of iPhone users and their contacts." Apple has until February 29 to answer the congress members' questions.

Dave Morrin, the co-found and CEO of Path, is also cc'ed on this letter.

What started out as a scandal around Path, though, has obviously moved far beyond the startup and the companies that have admitted to virtually the same practices now involve Twitter, Facebook and LinkedIn (though they all ask for permission before uploading your data), as well as Foodspotting (which doesn't ask) and quite a few others.

Many pundits have wondered if it isn't time for Apple to provide a technical solution to stop developers from accessing a user's address book and the two Congress members seem to be leaning in this direction as well. They also ask Apple about the rumors that "there’s a quiet understanding among many iOS app developers that it is acceptable to send a user’s entire address book, without their permission, to remote servers and then store it for future reference.  It’s common practice, and many companies likely have your address book stored in their database."

Here is the full text of the letter, including a set of questions the congressmen want Apple to answer:

February 15, 2012

 

Mr. Tim Cook

Chief Executive Officer, Apple Inc.

1 Infinite Loop

Cupertino, CA  95014

 

Dear Mr. Cook:

Last week, independent iOS app developer Arun Thampi blogged about his discovery that the social networking app “Path” was accessing and collecting the contents of his iPhone address book without ever having asked for his consent.[1] The information taken without his permission – or that of the individual contacts who own that information – included full names, phone numbers, and email addresses.[2] Following media coverage of Mr. Thampi’s discovery, Path’s Co-Founder and CEO Dave Morin quickly apologized, promised to delete from Path’s servers all data it had taken from its users’ address books, and announced the release of a new version of Path that would prompt users to opt in to sharing their address book contacts.[3]

This incident raises questions about whether Apple’s iOS app developer policies and practices may fall short when it comes to protecting the information of iPhone users and their contacts.

The data management section of your iOS developer website states:  “iOS has a comprehensive collection of tools and frameworks for storing, accessing, and sharing data. . . . iOS apps even have access to a device’s global data such as contacts in the Address Book, and photos in the Photo Library.”[4]The app store review guidelines section states:  “We review every app on the App Store based on a set of technical, content, and design criteria.  This review criteria is now available to you in the App Store Review Guidelines.”[5] This same section indicates that the guidelines are available only to registered members of the iOS Developer Program.[6] However, tech blogs following the Path controversy indicate that the iOS App Guidelines require apps to get a user’s permission before “transmit[ting] data about a user”.[7]

In spite of this guidance, claims have been made that “there’s a quiet understanding among many iOS app developers that it is acceptable to send a user’s entire address book, without their permission, to remote servers and then store it for future reference.  It’s common practice, and many companies likely have your address book stored in their database.”[8] One blogger claims to have conducted a survey of developers of popular iOS apps and found that 13 of 15 had a “contacts database with millions of records” – with one claiming to have a database containing “Mark Zuckerberg's cell phone number, Larry Ellison’s home phone number and Bill Gates’ cell phone number.”[9]

The fact that the previous version of Path was able to gain approval for distribution through the Apple iTunes Store despite taking the contents of users’ address books without their permission suggests that there could be some truth to these claims.  To more fully understand and assess these claims, we are requesting that you respond to the following questions:

 

  1. Please describe all iOS App Guidelines that concern criteria related to the privacy and security of data that will be accessed or transmitted by an app.

  2. Please describe how you determine whether an app meets those criteria.

  3. What data do you consider to be “data about a user” that is subject to the requirement that the app obtain the user’s consent before it is transmitted?

  4. To the extent not addressed in the response to question 2, please describe how you determine whether an app will transmit “data about a user” and whether the consent requirement has been met.

  5. How many iOS apps in the U.S. iTunes Store transmit “data about a user”?

  6. Do you consider the contents of the address book to be “data about a user”?

  7. Do you consider the contents of the address book to be data of the contact?  If not, please explain why not.  Please explain how you protect the privacy and security interests of that contact in his or her information.

  8. How many iOS apps in the U.S. iTunes Store transmit information from the address book?  How many of those ask for the user’s consent before transmitting their contacts’ information?

  9. You have built into your devices the ability to turn off in one place the transmission of location information entirely or on an app-by-app basis.  Please explain why you have not done the same for address book information.

 

Please provide the information requested no later than February 29, 2012.  If you have any questions regarding this request, you can contact Felipe Mendoza with the Energy and Commerce Committee Staff at 202-226-3400.

 

Sincerely,

 

Henry A. Waxman

Ranking Member

G.K. Butterfield

Ranking Member

Subcommittee on Commerce, Manufacturing, and Trade

 

cc:        Dave Morin

Path, Co-Founder and CEO



8:54 am


No More Buttons: Clear Demonstrates the Power of a Purely Gesture-Based Interface

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At Goldman Sach's technology and Internet conference today, Apple's CEO Tim Cook gave a rare live interview that provided a sweeping overview of the current state of Apple and some glimpses into its future. One moment that stuck with me was Cook noting how he things that at least some of the iPad's success is based on the face that it wasn't a completely new experience for users. The iPhone and iPad touch had already trained users in how to use Apple's gesture-based controls ("The iPad," he said, "stood on the shoulders of everything that came before it.").

It's somewhat fitting then, that today also marks the launch of Clear ($0.99), a deceptively simple todo list app for the iPhone that does away with menus and just focuses on providing a natural interface based on gestures and a few taps here and there. While most iOS productivity apps still use menus at the bottom of the screen, Clear just runs in something closer to a full-screen mode. Even if you don't feel the need for a new todo list app (and, no doubt, there are plenty of those around already), Clear is worth a look just for the interface alone. You can watch the demo below to get a better idea of what it looks like, but you really need to use it yourself to understand why people are so excited about this app.

Our friends over at The Next Web also have an interesting interview with Phill Ryu, one of the app's developers. In it, Ryu talks about how he thinks that virtual buttons are basically "about the most unsatisfying interaction you can have in a touchscreen device." Kids, Ryu thinks, are already growing up being more comfortable with gesture-based interactions than hotkeys and right-clicking. Games, of course, are mostly responsible for this, but it's only natural that these natural interfaces are now finding their way into productivity apps as well.

Clear may not be the right todo list app for you, but it is definitely blazing the trail for a new class of apps that will be completely based on gestures. This would have been completely impossible just a few years ago, as none of us were familiar with pinch-and-zoom gestures yet. But as Tim Cook pointed out earlier today, all of this has now become completely intuitive and the next logical step now is to just do away with more and more of what is still left of the desktop metaphors on our mobile devices.



11:35 pm


Tweetbot 2.0: The Best iPhone Twitter Client Just Got Even Better

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As Twitter has decided to focus on simplicity, its iPhone app is now a shadow of its former self for more advanced users (and for Twitter, search and lists apparently qualify as advanced features). Thankfully, there are some very good alternatives on market and among those, Tweetbot has long been my favorite. Today, the app's developers launched version 2.0 of Tweetbot and it’s a worthy upgrade to what was already – in my view – the best iPhone client for iOS.

Speed and New Features

The first thing you will likely notice when you start Tweetbot 2.0 is that it is significantly faster than previous versions. Searches, for example, now feel like they take a quarter of the time to appear on your screen.

Besides the speed, though, the app also now sports a number of new features. The updated timeline view, for example, now lets you immediately click on links and usernames. Before, you first had to select a tweet before these links became active. The timeline now also features in-line image thumbnails that let you quickly view an image with just one click.

Another nifty new feature is support for Readability as a mobilizer service. Just like Apple's Reader feature lets you see a text-only view of a website, you can now set Tweetbot to immediately see a text-only view of any link you click on (or you can toggle back and forth between the Readability view and the regular page).

Here is the full list of new features:[list]

  • Updated timeline view
    • Image thumbnails in timeline
    • Links now colored and single-tappable
    • “Retweeted by” bar now integrated and tappable
    • Cell colors adjusted for better contrast
  • New direct message view.
  • Redesigned “New Tweets” bar (Can be dismissed by tap and configured in Settings > Display)
  • Timed auto-refresh (timeline, mentions, and DM’s will refresh every 5 minutes)
  • Readability added as mobilizer service
  • Much improved tweet replies view
  • Links in user’s bio now tappable
  • “Huge” font size option in Settings > Display
  • Improved scrolling performance[/list]


11:37 am


Hands-On With OnLive’s Windows 7 iPad App: Nice Tech Demo, Not That Useful Yet

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Earlier this week, we reported that OnLive was about to launch an iPad app that lets you stream a remote, OnLive-hosted Windows 7 desktop to your tablet for free. The free app appeared in the iTunes store earlier tonight and we got a chance to put its through its paces.

Given OnLive's core competency of streaming high-end games across the Internet, it doesn't come as a surprise that streaming a relatively basic Windows 7 desktop doesn't pose much of a problem for the company. Everything runs very smoothly. While there often is some perceptible lag – especially when scrolling through documents or using multi-touch gestures to zoom in and out – it's never so bad as to become a dealbreaker.

OnLive Desktop - Windows 7 on the iPad

Word, Excel and PowerPoint – But No SkyDrive Access and No Browser

So here is what you get with your free account: access to Word, Excel and PowerPoint (the 2010 versions), as well as the ability to sync documents from your desktop. Given that OnLive's business plan depends on selling you additional storage, it doesn't come as too much of a surprise that the productivity apps are pretty locked down. You can't access date your stored in Microsoft's cloud on SkyDrive, for example. Office's "Save & Send" option has been disabled to prevent this.

The free version also doesn't include access to a browser. This will come in the paid versions versions, according to OnLive, but those won't be available for a while.

You do get 2GB of free storage on OnLive's servers, though, as well as Mac and Windows apps to sync folders from your desktop to OnLive.

More Caveats

Here are a few other caveats: the free plan, which is the only one available right now, only provides "as-available" access to your desktop. Access depends on availability, so don't use this as your only option for giving that important presentation. Paid accounts, which will launch later this year, will give you priority access, but apparently won't come with a service guarantee either.

Nice Tech Demo – Not Very Useful (Yet)

For now, then, the OnLive desktop is a nice tech demo. It's clearly the child of a transitional period where we can't do everything we would like to do on our tablets yet. Editing documents isn't one of those things, though, thanks to a growing number of native apps for the iPad and while many will surely install the app just for the sake of it, I venture to guess that the free version won't find too many regular users anytime soon. In the enterprise, there may just be a niche for this, though, but only once administrators can deploy their own apps on these remote desktops.

The OnLive app also clearly shows that Windows 7 wasn't developed with tablets in mind. It works alright, but feels like a chore compared to iOS or Android.

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8:31 pm


Kindle for iPad Gets Updated Digital Magazine Experience, Support for Print Replica Textbooks

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Amazon today launched a major update to its iOS Kindle apps. While the iPhone and iPod touch apps gets some interesting new features, though, the most important updates are for iPad owners. iPad owners now get access to an updated magazine experience that is also available on Amazon's own Kindle Fire tablet. In total, Amazon offers 400 of these magazines and newspapers, including Martha Stewart Living, Food Network Magazine, Cosmopolitan, Men’s Health and Popular Science. Most of these magazines also come with a free 14-day trial.

Kindle magazines ipad

Print Replica Textbooks

The iPad app is now also able to display "print replica textbooks." These feature the rich formatting and layout of their print editions and offer support for notes, highlights, zoom and pan, as well as a linked table of contents. For Amazon, this is a significant move, as it tries to get a stronger foothold in the lucrative textbook market – an area where the basic Kindle was supposed to shine but was never able to make a significant impact.

All iOS Devices: Send-to-Kindle

While these features aren't available on the smaller iOS devices, all of the current iOS Kindle apps (iPad, iPhone, iPod touch) now offer support for Amazon's Send-to-Kindle service and the ability to open PDFs from Mail or Safari by transferring them from iTunes or by sending them to a Send-to-Kindle email address.

 



4:12 pm


Microsoft Brings Its SkyDrive Cloud Storage Service to the iPhone

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For quite a while now, SkyDrive, Microsoft's cloud storage service, has sat quietly at the center of the company's Windows Live online services and Windows Phone. Now, however, the company is quickly launching new features for the services. Earlier this week, SkyDrive received a number of major updates, including sharing features for Office documents, an HTML5 uploader and better file management. Today, the SkyDrive team is adding a Windows Phone app and an iPhone client to its feature line-up.

This move clearly shows that Microsoft is not willing to leave the consumer-focused online storage market to startups like Dropbox or Box.net (or Google, for that matter).

SkyDrive for Windows Phone

Skydrive windows phone

SkyDrive, of course, is already deeply integrated into Windows Phone, but this new app provides users with, as Microsoft puts it, "the full SkyDrive experience from Windows Phone, including tasks like browsing their entire SkyDrive, sharing links to folders or files, deleting files, and creating folders." The new app is available worldwide and should be in the Windows Phone now.

SkyDrive for iOS

As for iOS users, Microsoft notes that "not everyone who relies on SkyDrive for sharing photos or accessing Office documents uses Windows Phone… yet." I have to give Microsoft some props for making more and more of its products available on iOS (though Android users are still out of luck). With OneNote and Bing, for example, the company made its first (tepid) steps onto iOS quite a while ago, but the real push towards launching apps for Apple's mobile operating system seems to have started now.

SkyDrive for the iPhone is now available in Apple's app store and allows SkyDrive users to "access all of their files in SkyDrive, create folders, delete files, and share links to folders and files directly using the Mail app."

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6:45 pm


Flipboard’s CEO Mike McCue: We’re Now on 10% of All iPads, No Android Version in the Works Yet

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During a conversation with Loic Le Meur at the annual LeWeb conference in Paris today, Flipboard‘s highly energetic founder and CEO Mike McCue talked about the origins of his company and why there is no Android version of Flipboard yet. The company’s CEO also noted that his app is already on about 10% of all iPads. With the launch of Flipboard’s iPhone app today, chances are it will be on quite a few iPhones soon as well.

During his presentations, McCue took some time to demo the new Flipboard iPhone app. He specifically focused on the one new feature the iPhone version introduced: Cover Stories. With this, users can easily get a quick overview of all the top stories around the categories they subscribe to.

Origins of Flipboard

McCue, who was at Netscape in the mid-90s, talked about how he watched the web evolve in the early years and how he wondered why the web never quite looked as well as print magazines. Then, as social media started to become popular and as the iPad arrived on the scene, his vision for a magazine-like view of the web became possible. Having raised $60 million so far, the company decided to bet on the tablet platform early. For now, though, McCue noted, the company doesn’t have significant revenue. Instead, Flipboard’s focus for now is on building great apps and expanding internationally.

Android?

Asked why Flipboard hasn’t launched on Android yet, McCue argued that there are simply not enough Android tablets yet. He also wants to ensure that his apps are as high-quality as possible, which, in his view, is only possible as long as the developers remain focused. He did, however, leave the possibility of an Android app open for the future. Development of the Android app hasn’t started yet, though.



11:09 am


It’s Time for Apple to Allow Real Browser Competition on iOS

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Yesterday, Google launched its redesigned search app for the iPad. It features a smart, innovative design and could, with just a few extra features like bookmarks, easily become the best browser alternative to Safari on iOS. The reality, though, is that while Apple allows browser apps like the Dolphin Browser that use iOS’s built-in WebKit framework or Opera, which renders all the content on its own servers to get around Apple’s rules, none of these can be used as the default browsers on iOS. Whenever you click on a link in an email, for example, you can’t set iOS to open Opera instead of Safari. Because of this, there is almost no incentive for users to even try a third-party browser on iOS, as the system will constantly route them to Safari anyway.

Apple’s Own Browser: Adequate but not Innovative

Apple’s own browser is perfectly adequate, but as the Google app shows, users are missing out on innovations on all levels, including interface design and faster access to modern web standards on their mobile devices.

Safari on the iPad, for example, uses the same way to handle tabs as on the desktop instead of using a design that really makes use of the iPad’s touch features.

Third-Party Browsers Can’t Compete Unless Users Can Make them the Default Choice

The Google search app shows that interesting, touch-centric browser interfaces are possible. For Google, of course, search is the central metaphor for browsing the web, but you could just replace the current search screen at the center of the app with bookmarks and links to web apps and have a great browser app.

Mozilla was late to the mobile browser game, but now it’s doing a few creative things with Firefox on Android (and lets you use plugins, for example). Opera, too, is constantly pushing the envelope with its mobile browsers. iOS users, however, are more or less cut off from all of this innovation. Sure, you can install interesting apps like Dual Browser or Atomic Browser, but chances are, you will never use them because unlike Android, you can’t switch the default browser away from Safari on iOS.

Will Apple Ever Relinquish Total Control over the OS?

Apple, of course, wants to keep total control over your iOS experience. For most apps that are alternatives to built-in iOS apps (email, streaming music, to-do lists etc.), it doesn’t really matter that other apps can’t be set as the default. For browsers, though, it’s really the only way they will ever get widespread use.

Locking the browser down made sense for Apple in the early days of iOS, when apps weren’t even on the roadmap yet. Now, however, this policy feels more like it stifles innovation than that it protects users.



4:57 pm