Monday, May 21
When Google decided to officially support tablets with its Android operating system, they also decided to temporarily fork the platform to support both phones and tablets separately. The idea behind this was to create an optimized interface and experience for tablets, then to bring the two versions back together in a later OS version.
The end product – where phones and tablets met again – was Ice Cream Sandwich. While both have a very similar look, the tablet interface is better optimized for larger displays. There is a context switch, which I have explained before and feel is necessary and welcomed.
Phones are generally used in portrait mode and held with one hand while widescreen Android tablets are better suited for landscape and held with two hands or propped with a stand or case. The differences in their respective interfaces reflect just that. The notification system on Android tablets is more easily accessed with the right thumb than the pull-down notification shade like on Android smartphones. And the tablet home screen is much larger than the standard four by four grid found on smartphones; it's a seven by eight grid, which is better suited for larger, more useful widgets.
Looks like the HTC Amaze 4G isn't the only T-Mobile handset being treated to an update today. T-Mobile has announced that a new software update is rolling out to the Samsung Galaxy S II, weighing in at 32.3MB and bumping the device up to version T989UVLDE. What's included, you ask? Inside is a handful of tweaks, such as Google security fixes and device stability improvements. Here's the changelog provided by T-Mobile:
Ready for some Ice Cream Sandwich, HTC Amaze 4G owners? Last week, T-Mobile told us that the Amaze 4G's update to Android 4.0 would be released on May 21st, and now owners of the handset have begun reporting that the new software is indeed available. The update bumps the Amaze 4G to Android 4.0.3 and includes a handful of tweaks and fixes, including improved battery life and text input. Here's the full changelog from T-Mobile:
Voyager Mobile was supposed to make its debut last Tuesday, but an attack on its website caused the new Sprint MVNO to postpone its launch. The delay turned out to be fairly short, though, as Voyager Mobile is now open for business. Voyager is a prepaid carrier that operates on Sprint's 3G and 4G WiMAX networks and offers two plans: a $19 option that includes unlimited talk and text as well as a $39 plan that also throws in unlimited data. The carrier is also planning a Voyager Rewards program that'll offer goodies like gift cards and phone upgrades to frequent talkers, though that feature is currently listed as "coming soon."
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About.me Releases Public API, SDK At Disrupt, Now Integrates With Reputation, Smarterer, Forkly, Kred And Showyou
About.Me is set to get a bit more social. The AOL-owned property just released a public API and SDK into the wild in partnership with Reputation.com, Smarterer, Forkly, Kred and Showyou. While the online profile site already worked with most popular social platforms, today’s announcement is huge for both about.me and their legions of users. Plus, for attendees of Disrupt NYC this week, the company is celebrating the news by having a professional photographer on hand to help create free killer profile pics.
Sometimes the simplest ideas are the best. About.me collects a user’s various online identifies and puts them in a single (and beautiful) location. Think of it a splash page for your identity online. Instead of directing people to various locations like LinkedIn, Facebook or Instagram, the idea is to just send them to your about.me page, which neatly collates the rest of your accounts. Here’s mine. I think it’s lovely and only took about five minutes to make.
Google has reached the final regulatory hurdle to its $12.5 billion acquisition of Motorola Mobility, with China approving the transaction over the weekend, and today Motorola Mobility filed an 8-K form that notes that it will close in the next two business days.
So what happens next? A “listening tour,” a source tells us, with new management visiting the whole of the operation, “seeing what everyone does, then making decisions.” One decision that may be close at hand has to do with headcount: we have heard that there will be layoffs coming imminently. At the same time, more details are emerging about the conditions that China put on the deal: they include a guarantee that Android would remain free and open source for the next five years.
Motorola’s statement today noted that the approval from the Anti-Monopoly Bureau of the Ministry of Commerce of China came on May 19, 2012, as we reported earlier. ”As the transaction has now received all required regulatory approvals, the companies are moving to close the transaction within two business days,” it notes.
Comcast announced Monday that it will make its newest set-top box available in Boston over the coming weeks, with a rollout planned across the entire country later this year. It’s also introducing a mobile app to control the set-top box from the iPhone or iPad.
The new set-top box comes after several years of development. Comcast has been working hard to develop a new set-top box that would take all of the smarts out of the box and put it in the network, essentially allowing the cable provider to launch new services and update the new features without having to totally rewrite applications or push out new firmware.
With the X1, all the processing is done in the network. That will give Comcast the flexibility to quickly test and create new apps for customers, without having to worry about how outdated its set-top boxes are. It will also provide more personalized features, such as allowing customers to see which shows their Facebook friends are watching.
Xfire, which offers social networking tools for gamers, just announced that it has raised $3 million in new funding.
The round was led by Singapore-based IDM Venture Capital. It’s apparently targeted specifically at expanding Xfire’s presence in Asia — the company recently announced that it’s partnering with China Youth Goyor Technology company to bring its services into the Chinese market.
The company’s services include a gamer profile, in-game voice and instant messaging, and live broadcasting. It has changed hands several times in the past few years, getting acquired by Viacom in 2006, then by Titan Gaming in 2010. Xfire became independent again last fall. At that time it also raised $4 million from Intel Capital and others.
Xfire says this funding will probably be part of a larger round.
Google always pitched Google Drive, which launched in April after a considerable period of hype, as a replacement for Google Docs. What many users didn’t realize, it seems, is that Google will indeed completely replace Google Docs with Drive later this year. While Drive is still opt-in at this time, it looks like the forced transition is coming soon, as Google has started to alert users that their Google Docs account will soon be “upgraded to Google Drive.”
What’s coming next, according to Google’s official transition documents, is an opt-out phase similar to what the company has done when it transitioned to the new Gmail interface recently. Judging from the messages that many users are now seeing in Google Docs, this phase is going to start soon.
Facebook shares dropped nearly 12 percent to $33.76 — below the company’s final $38 price in the company’s highly anticipated initial public offering last week. Today is an interesting test for Facebook’s worth because the company’s shares will no longer be supported as heavily by the IPO’s lead underwriter Morgan Stanley.
Facebook’s performance today may further stoke the debate over whether its IPO was priced well. To save face on Friday, Morgan Stanley had to step in to make sure that Facebook shares didn’t close below their opening price. There were also irregularities in trading on NASDAQ as some buyers had to wait hours to know whether their orders had been filled. The company’s market cap is now around $92.7 billion, down from the $104 billion valuation the company opened with last week.
Hulu announced a new slate of original and exclusive programming Monday morning, as the video site ventures further into creating its own content. For Hulu, it’s a way to begin controlling its own destiny and distinguishing itself from all the content produced by parents and part-owners Fox, NBC and Disney.
For its originals, Hulu is teaming up with Hollywood big shots like Kevin Smith and Richard Linklater. Smith will work on a show called Spoilers, which will invite movie fans to discuss all the biggest movies being released. Linklater’s Up To Speed is a travel show built around Speed Levitch (you might remember him from Linklater’s Waking Life, if you’re into that sort of thing) and his travels around the world. And We Got Next, a bro-mantic comedy set in a basketball gym? Ok, maybe I’m kind of interested.
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