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.
Consuming news ranks, according to a new study conducted by the Pew Research Center's Project for Excellence in Journalism, among the most popular things adults in the U.S. do with their tablets. Reading news sites and watching news-related video is about as popular as sending and receiving email, for example, and more popular than using social networking services. As the news industry struggles to find viable business models in this new world, though, one number that stands out is the fact that only 14% of U.S. adults have paid for news directly on their tablets.
Instapaper, the popular distraction-free offline reading app for iOS, was probably among the first few apps I installed on both my iPhone and iPad and it has never left their respective homescreens since. Today, its developer Marco Arment launched version 4 of the app. It’s available in iTunes now and brings numerous new features that both new and existing users will appreciate. Among these are a redesigned interface , the ability to multi-select articles to archive, delete or move them in bulk, the ability to look up words in Wikipedia and support for footnotes from most websites.
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.
Using the iPad to display sheet music isn't new. Tonara, however, adds some much-needed functionality to these scores which its competitors just can't mach: it listens to you while you play and automatically flips pages. I think Tonara will set the benchmark for 21st century sheet music apps for those of us who play piano, violin, flute or other polyphonic and monophonic instruments (indeed, its flexibility is what makes it so great).
We have seen a number of airlines trial iPad-based electronic flight bags. A regular flight bag, the one you see pilots pull behind them at the airport consits of all the necessariy ground maps, in-flight charts and manuals they need to get you safely from one point to another - that's 12,000 sheets of paper in total. Now, United is the first airline to completely switch to iPad-based flight bags for all of its pilots. By the end of the year, all United and Continental pilots will have switched to iPads loaded with Jeppesen's Mobile FliteDeck software. This software, by the way, is freely available in the app store for anybody, though you have to pay a subscription fee to get access to all of Jeppesen's data.
If you're a frequent traveller, you know how much of a hassle paid WiFi networks can be. For a while now, recent Microsoft acquisition Skype has been trying to make things a bit easier by giving its users the ability to pay for WiFi access with the money that already have on their Skype accounts. Even better, Skype WiFi access is metered by the minute, so you don't have to pay for an expensive hourly or daily pass just because you need to send an email from your laptop. Until now, Skype Wifi was only available for Windows machines and Macs, but starting today, you will also be able to use Skype's new Wifi app for iOS to get online.
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.