SiliconFilter

Tonara: Disrupting the Sheet Music Business One Note at a Time

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Using the iPad to display sheet music isn’t newTonara, 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. The Israel-based company competed in TechCrunch’s Disrupt Startup Battlefield last week, but despite its great presentation, the competition’s judges didn’t think there was really a market for a smart sheet music app. I beg to differ. 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).

Getting Started

So how does it work? Once installed, the app comes with a number of pre-loaded scores on it already (mostly classical), but also features an in-app store for buying new scores for between $0.99 and $2.99, depending on their length. Then, you simply open up the score and start playing. Tonara uses the iPad’s microphone to follow along and a moving bar keeps tap on where in the score you currently are. Make a mistake and stop? Tonara will notice and just let you pick up from anywhere before that point.

Check out the video below for some of the more advanced features, including the ability to record sessions, how to use the metronome feature and a brief walk-through of the advanced settings:

Some Small Issues, But More Than Worth a Try

I’ve tested the app extensively over the last few days and highly enjoyed the experience. The store could benefit from some additional diversity, though. It’s mostly out-of-copyright classical music right now – which is perfectly fine, of course – but Tonara hopes to get some sheet music publishers on board so it can offer a wider range of scores.

With regards to how well it works, I would say that it’s great about 90% of the time. Sometimes, though, the cursor moves ahead too fast and sometimes it can’t find my place in the score again after I stop and correct myself (something that happens a bit more often that I’d like to admit).

Still, if you are a musician, I can only recommend this app. It’s a great first release and will only get better as the app matures.



5:01 pm


Android Tablets: Hardware is Great, OS is Getting Better, but Apps are Still MIA

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When it comes to tablets, the iPad is still synonymous with the whole tablet category for most users. This doesn’t come as a surprise, though, given that it took Google’s partners quite a while to launch competitive hardware and Google’s first efforts to launch a tablet version of Android were not up to par with Apple’s iOS. For the most part, though, the forthcoming Android 3.1 and 4.0 releases will take care of most of these software issues, however, and with the Samsung Galaxy Tab 10.1, Android tablet hardware is now also getting to the point where it’s competitive with Apple’s iPad line.What is missing, however, is the wide variety of apps that makes Apple’s ecosystem so vibrant.

The Samsung Galaxy Tab 10.1

galaxy_tab_sidewaysThis is not a hardware review, but as others have pointed out before, the Tab 10.1 (which Google gave to all of the attendees at its developer conference last week – including this writer) is both lighter and thinner than the iPad, has a great screen (though it’s 16:9 widescreen takes some getting used to) and generally feels very solid. Other Android tablets from a variety of manufacturers will launch this year and chances are that quite a few of them will rival Samsung’s latest tablet in terms of build quality and speed.

Android’s Weak Spot on the Tablet: Apps

There is one area, though, where Android simply can’t compete with Apple yet: apps. One the phone, this is actually a minor problem at this point, but when it comes to tablets, Google doesn’t even offer the ability to just show tablet-ready apps in its marketplace. The apps that are available, whether they are news apps from CNN and USA Today, weather apps from the Weather Channel and WeatherBug, or e-book apps from Amazon and Barnes & Noble, can easily compete with their brethren on the iPad.

But there are no magazine apps worth writing about, Twitter’s and Facebook’s regular Android apps run fine on the tablet, but are just large versions of the phone app (which is true for virtually all non-Honeycomb specific apps). Indeed, just finding tablet-ready apps is a major pain as the Android Marketplace will happily show you a list of featured tablet apps but doesn’t make it easy to filter regular search results by screen size.

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Another Weak Spot: Built-In Browser

It’s worth noting that there are plenty of alternative browsers that work well on the tablet, including those from Mozilla and Opera, but the built-in browser is just not up to par when compared to Safari on the iPad. It’s actually quite fast, but often has issues rendering complex pages and while support for Flash is a nice thing to have, Flash video playback is sometimes choppy or cuts out altogether. For a company that makes Chrome – arguably the best browser on the market today – this browser on the tablet is a bit of an embarrassment. Thankfully, Android is open enough to allow you to run whatever browser you want, though, but this problem shows that there are still quite a few areas in Honeycomb that need polish.

Would You Buy a Tablet that Only Has 100 Apps?

android_marketThat said, though, I’ve used the Samsung Galaxy Tab 10.1 exclusively for a few days now and it’s definitely growing on me. Android’s support for desktop widgets, easy sync with other Google services and smart notifications (one of the areas where Android always beat Apple) already show that the Android OS can best Apple in some areas.

With regards to the hardware, the Samsung Galaxy Tab 10.1 is the first really iPad challenger. If you decide to buy a Motorola Xoom today or the Tab 10.1 when it’s released next month, you are, however, placing a bet on the fact that enough developers and publishers will also bet on Android as a tablet platform.

Given how far Android has come in the short time it’s been on the market, I wouldn’t bet against it – especially now that those 5,000 developers who attended Google I/O have a tablet in hand.

Disclaimer: Google provided free Samsung Galaxy Tab 10.1 tablets to all Google I/O attendees, including members of the press.



3:45 pm


Steve Jobs Announces Redesigned, Faster iPad 2 & iOS 4.3 – Shipping March 11

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During a press event in San Francisco this morning, Apple CEO Steve Jobs – still officially on medical leave – unexpectedly took the stage himself to announce the fully redesigned iPad 2.

Dual-Core Processor, Faster Graphics – But Same Memory Sizes and Screen

The new iPad will sport a dual-core processor (dubbed the A5), feature a graphics chip that is 9 times as fast as the one in the current generation iPad and be one-third thinner and slightly lighter. The iPad 2 will have cameras in the front (VGA) and back (720p). Despite the faster processor, the battery life will remain the same (10 hours).

Despite all the rumors, the iPad 2’s screen will remain the same (9.7 inch, 1024×768 resolution).

Apple will ship GSM and CDMA versions from day one, so the iPad 2 will natively work on Verizon’s network, as well as AT&Ts. It will be available in black and white. The pricing will remain exactly the same as before, starting at $499 for the 16GB version.

The iPad 2 will be available in the U.S. on March 11th and is coming to Europe on March 25th.

The new iPad will allow full 1080p HDMI output for any application with the help of a $39 dongle.

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Apple also introduced a new cover for the iPad, which will be held in place with magnets. “With iPad 1, we went through all this effort to build a beautiful product, then covered it with a case,” said Steve Jobs. The new cover just clips to the device and a “micro-fiber screen” will clean the screen every time you close it. The cover also functions as a stand. It will be available in multiple colors. $39 for polyurethane, $69 for leather.iPad_2_cover

A Post-PC Device

One of the key messages of today’s presentation, which was repeated by Apple’s senior VP Phil Shiller and Jobs, was that the iPad is not a computer, but a “post-PC device.”

Talking Competitors

As usual, Jobs also took a stab at the iPads’ competitors, pointing out that nobody has really been able to match its pricing yet and that Samsung’s VP Lee Young-Hee himself noted that the company wasn’t able to sell many Galaxy tablets.

As for tablets powered by Google’s Honeycomb, Jobs just pointed out that Apple has 65,000 apps in its store and Google 100.

For Apple, the iPad has generated over $9.5 billion in revenue and garnered 90% of the tablet market within just a few months.

Jobs also announced that Apple now services accounts with credit card numbers from over 200 million users and paid out more than $2 billion to developers in the App Store so far. While Amazon does not release how many accounts its users have opened, Jobs believes that Apple now has more accounts with credit cards than any other online retailer.

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iOS 4.3: Faster Safari, PhotoBooth and Facetime

Apple also announced the next version of its iOS operating system. iOS 4.3 will be launched in conjunction with the iPad 2 on March 11.

photobooth_ipadiOS 4.3 will feature a significantly faster version of Safari, which will render JavaScript about twice as fast as the current version.

iOS 4.3 will also feature support for personal hotspots, which allows you to use WiFi to connect your laptops and other devices to the Internet via your iPhone 4 (a feature that was already available on the Verizon iPhone).

As expected, iOS 4.3 also features PhotoBooth and FaceTime support for iPad 2 and iPhone 4.

Oddly enough, Apple did not mention when iOS 4.3 will be available for the Verizon iPhone. Apple’s iOS 4.3 website only mentions the GSM models as being compatible with the new version.

iMovie for iPad

Apple also announced that it will bring iMovie, its consumer-oriented movie editor, to the iPad. iMovie for iPad looks a lot like the Mac version and feature a very similar set of tools, including a precision editor, transitions and enhanced audio editing features.

GarageBand for iPad

More surprising than the launch of iMovie for the iPad was the launch of GarageBand for iPad. The iPad is already a hit with musicians and now Apple will bring its own virtual instruments, guitar amps and 8-track recording to the iPad. GarageBand for iPad will also come with over 250 loops and additional sound files can be imported by sending yourself emails of your AAC files.

One nifty feature here is that Apple will use the iPad’s built-in accelerometer to measure the force of your taps if you are playing a virtual keyboard or drum kit.

GarageBand for iPad will be released on March 11 and cost $4.99. Apple and third-party manufacturers will likely offer adapters for connecting guitars and microphones to the iPad.

No Live Stream

Unlike during previous events, Apple did not offer a live video stream of the event today. We are not sure why, but can only hope that Apple will bring these live video feeds back for future events. A video of the event will likely be up on Apple’s site later this afternoon.

Image credit: Macworld



11:27 am


Summing up the Rumors: iPad 2 and iOS 4.3

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Apple released the first beta of iOS 4.3 to developers yesterday and today the Internet is swirling with rumors about not just what’s in iOS 4.3 but also about what this means for the next generation of iPads. Assuming Apple will stay with an annual update cycle for the iPad, it’s easy to guess that we could see an announcement as early as February and that the new iPad will go on sale in April. Given the nature of the Apple business, that makes the middle of January the prime time for speculating about the next iPad.

Here is a brief summary of all the iPad rumors we have encountered so far:
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  • The next iPad and iPhone won’t feature a home button. The reason for this is that now that iOS 4.3 brings new multi-touch gestures that bring up the task switcher and home screen, you won’t need the home button anymore. According to Boy Genius Report’s anonymous source, Apple is already testing iPads and iPhones without home buttons on its campus.
    John Gruber, however, also points out that this could create serious discoverability problems. Currently, the home button is the only physical button on the face of the device and this is what makes the iPad and iPhone so easy to use for novice users. “How in the world would a normal person figure out or guess that they need to do a “five-finger pinch” to get back to the home screen?”
  • Photo Booth is coming to the iPad. This makes sense to us. It’s a little utility that won’t see a lot of use, but that Apple can highlight in its ads and that one or two engineers could easily port to the iPad.
  • iLife is coming to the iPad. This also makes sense. With iMovie, Apple already took a first step in this direction. Music software is very popular on the iPad, so a scaled-down version of GarageBand would make sense and the same goes for iPhoto.
  • The next iPad will have a camera for photo and video.
  • The next iPad will feature the same screen resolution as the current one. Looking at iPad2-specific images in iOS 4.3, the good folks at 9to5mac found that their resolution is 1024×768.
  • Apple could be building its own mobile social network. MacRumors found an entry for “Find My Friends” in the new version of iOS that is related to MobileMe and the Settings app. Given the disaster that was Apple’s last attempt and building a social app (Ping in iTunes), I can only hope this will be more interesting.
  • iPad2 will launch on April 2nd or 9th. According to this rumor, the iPad 2 will go on sale in the U.S. first and then makes its way to other markets about three months later.

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These are just the rumors. Thanks to the release of iOS 4.3, we also know quite a few things about the new version of iOS at this point. Here are the highlights courtesy of Pocket-Lint.



10:33 am