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May 31, 2011

The San Francisco Chronicle Launches An iPad App

While some magazine and newspaper publishers are seeing spotty results with digital editions of their content specifically tailored for the iPad, the millions of Apple tablet owners remain an attractive target for print media brands looking to make additional cash, stemming the bleeding from years of declining subscribers and advertising dollars.

The latest entrant is the Bay Area's own San Francisco Chronicle, who introduced its iPad app today, free to subscribers, but premium for all others, bringing the full content of the day's paper (and editions from the week prior) into your hands without the complementary ink and subsequent visit to the recycle bin.


    
The Chronicle Front Page on iPad, and Browsing Previous Editions


The Chronicle's iPad app delivers edition integrity for the day's paper, containing all stories from all editions, but also features a "Live Edition", marrying the existing content with real-time traffic, weather and news updates. This essentially provides the best of both worlds, letting you meander the paper as you would traditionally, while also getting the benefit of being Web connected.


   
The Chronicle's Sporting Green Section and a News Story


The application looks and behaves like a standard newspaper, with lead stories, backstories on subsequent pages (a swipe away, of course), and more details from each story continuing on the jump (newspaper parlance for continuing on a later page). But visual perks to the app leverage the fact it's a digital edition, including a sectional carousel that you can navigate left to right (or the reverse) to browse from Business to Sports, Obits and the front page, for example.


   
Browsing Sections on the Carousel and Seeing Live Traffic


For existing paper subscribers, the new app is free. For those who don't get the paper, after a free 30 day period, access is priced at $5.99 a month or $59.99 a year. This compares to $99 a year for full access to the paper's online edition, or $9.75 a week to get the paper home delivered, Monday through Sunday.


   
Checking the Current Weather Radar and Sharing a Story to Twitter


With the exception of the controversial The Daily and national news media apps, like those from the New York Times and Wall Street Journal, the most lauded media apps have been almost entirely social, with Flipboard being the most widely known, followed by Zite and others. The San Francisco Chronicle's app is not designed to bring in social content, but sharing outward to Twitter and Facebook is integrated easily. Once your credentials are included, you can share out using the Chronicle's custom URL shortener. Meanwhile, if you are going to be offline, you can download up to ten stories for local reading.

The app itself is free for download, outside of the aforementioned charges. Each page of the app contains a standard horizontal Web banner ad, which no doubt brings in a few dollars to the paper as well. If you're in the race to kill of physical media like I am, moving the Chronicle to your tablet certainly helps in this quest. There's not yet an Android option and the company hasn't announced plans to develop one yet.

Minno Rebrands as BuySimple, Raises $700k Seed Round

Two weeks ago, I highlighted Minno's integration with SoundCloud for micropayments. The new service, founded by a pair of ex-Googlers, is hoping to tap into the growing market for in-app payments and premium social games and solve the complexity presented by today's solutions.

This morning, the company is announcing a not so micro boost to their chances with the closure of a $700,000 seed round, including contribution from Farhad Mohit, the founder of Shopzilla, Jack Abraham, founder of Milo, and GRP partners. In parallel, the company is also changing its name to BuySimple and setting up shop at http://www.buysimple.com.

The name change is more than cosmetic, helping the company evade a cybersquatter who thought Minno.com was worth exchanging high five figures for, which would certainly have put a dent into the seed round. It also captures the hope that Noah Ready-Campbell and Calvin Young have in making the long-discussed but rarely done well action of micropayments a simple one.

BuySimple Integrated on Hacker Monthly

Why will BuySimple be easy where other offerings have failed? In part, users don't need to create new accounts to use the service. They can tap into their existing Facebook accounts today, and imminent support for OpenID providers is promised. Merchants like SoundCloud and others are seeing the opportunity and already signing up. Early partners also include Hacker Monthly and FutureMe, who have posted buttons on their sites to enable users to donate using BuySimple or purchase digital editions of their magazine, right alongside the ubiquitous PayPal buttons.

BuySimple on FutureMe

Unlike PayPal, who is tightly integrated with parent company eBay for auctions and all other sorts of online purchasing, BuySimple is focused on micropayments and making the process easy. During a beta period, the company promises that qualifying partners can tap into the product free. New users get two dollars credit on initial use.

BuySimple is not affiliated with BankSimple, the new banking startup founded by former Twitter engineer Alex Payne.

May 30, 2011

Quora Makes It Harder to Hurt People's Feelings

While Wikipedia is well-known for its edict against self-aggrandizement and editing one's own biography, question and answer collective Quora looks to be going quite a bit in the other direction, not just permitting people to manage their own reputation on the site, but to outright push for deletion of topics or questions they don't like. In a new policy issued late last week, the service says not only do they want people under discussion to automatically gain moderation of such topics, but any question that is "hurtful or mean-spirited" simply isn't allowed. So no more questions about why specific people are such jerks, you mean Quora-ites.

The policy outlines that it is intended to protect individuals fairly and equally, regardless of their public stature, so Mark Zuckerberg and Ron Conway have equal access as John Smith. Don't know John Smith? Well, he has as much a chance to defend himself on rude comments on the site directed his way as the next guy.

So why is Quora making this move? Is it to whitewash the site of any negativity? They don't seem to believe so, but they do recognize that some high profile users will use the increased ability to moderate, to "remove questions that other users would be interested in learning about," as Marc Bodnick adds, "We believe that this risk is worth taking in return for the benefits we achieve..." in line with the company's mission to create the "best database of human knowledge on the Internet."

While running from the world of libel and slander is laudable, one has to assume that negativity exists in both the real and virtual world, and it's possible that negative feedback related to individuals could be valuable, especially as the word "best" is so subjective. But their goal is to keep the content on the site relevant and valuable.

Oddly, despite focusing on equal protection under the rules, the change is clearly targeting the famous and semi-famous alike, closing with a hope that "Quora will remain a site where there is not much gossip about the personal lives of well-known individuals," as Bodnick adds, "Internet users have many other alternatives for this kind of content."

The move follows another controversial move earlier this month, when the site disavowed its initial position against self-promotion.

May 28, 2011

Youtify Turns YouTube Into Your Music Video Jukebox

YouTube is much more than a repository for amateur videos and bloopers. The video giant is the second largest search engine for the Web, a practically endless treasure trove for TV clips of all types, and unsurprisingly, heaven for music video promoters and fans. A cool site called Youtify (YouTube + Spotify, get it?) launched this month to tap this resource, letting you build your own playlists, search for your own music, and pretty much make the Web your jukebox. Even if you don't want to watch the videos, the music alone is great.

Available both as a stand-alone Web app (at www.youtify.com) as well as a Chrome browser app, Youtify transforms your Web browser into something looking much like the iTunes music player, prepopulated with two playlists: "Top 100", showing the usual popular fare from artists like Beyoncé, Katy Perry and Lady Gaga, and "Best of YouTube", which highlights fan-submitted music (like Super Mario beatbox and ukulele the beatles - obladi oblada).

Searching Youtify for Underworld Turns Up Scads of Videos

Every link plays the music video in the bottom left corner of your browser (like iTunes does in its music player) and has the option to expand to your full screen. You can also right-click and go to the YouTube video directly.

The Top 100 Youtify Videos Are Names You Would Recognize

While that's fun, what's even better is when you search for your favorite music. Even a techno geek like me could pick up hundreds of tracks (well, music videos) from bands like Chemical Brothers, Underworld and Daft Punk. If a band has ever made a music video worth playing, it's on YouTube. You can create and save playlists, and search playlists across the network. The great part of that is instead of recreating the playlists for each artist, it's possible they already exist somewhere. Searching an artist name can turn up dozens of playlists, each with dozens of videos already there.

Building and Playing a Youtify Playlist

With MTV getting way the heck away from its initial mission, YouTube has taken over as the premiere venue for music videos on the Web, and possibly, all media. Youtify makes finding those videos and the music behind them fun. While it's not going to replace your music library app (be it Spotify, iTunes, Google Music or something else), you'll definitely want to check this out. Just don't plan on being extremely efficient at the office while doing so. Find it at http://www.youtify.com.

May 27, 2011

How to Scrobble Your Google Music Plays to Last.fm

Google Music is very much a beta product, but one that is going to get a lot of attention as it becomes more widely available, competing in the online music world with Apple's forthcoming cloud music player, Amazon's cloud player, and Spotify, which thus far has focused on desktop or mobile applications to play on-demand tunes.

After taking a few days to upload my music to the cloud, I'm enjoying getting access to my tunes on any computer I want, from practically anywhere. But the service doesn't do a few things that are practically a must for me - first, update Last.fm with my listening history, and second, play to my Sonos S5 setup at home, leaving me to listen through my laptop or phone's speakers.

Last.fm integrated into my Google Music Player

After politely venting about these product holes on Twitter this morning, the first of these two holes was solved. Daniel Slaughter, a Web Developer at Grand Valley State University in Michigan alerted me to a project of his that brings Last.fm scrobbling to Google Music, letting the OCD side of me enjoy the music again, while keeping my statistics up to date.

Google Music Player updating Last.fm

His project, simply titled Google Music With Last.fm, is a script that runs on FireFox 3 or 4 with Greasemonkey installed, or of course, Google Chrome. To get it running, I downloaded and ran the script, and a new Last.fm section showed up in my Google Music. Once I had authenticated the application to update my personal Last.fm account, the song plays and history started to rack up.

If you're one of the early folks to gain access to Google Music Beta, and you miss the Last.fm integration that practically every other music player (including Spotify and iTunes) offers, you'll want to get this script going. Very easy to add and very clear to see the benefit. Nice work, Daniel.

Bre.ad Rises in June, Adding Billboards to Social Sharing

Everybody and their mom has a URL shortener these days. With 140 characters being the new 1,000 words, shrinkage is no longer a bad thing. But not all URL shorteners are the same. Bre.ad, which promises it will be opening to the public in June of this year, gives its users an option to deliver a customized digital billboard attached to every share, be it for a favorite brand, cause, charity or anything else. Have something to promote as well as something to share? Bre.ad hopes you'll join their bakery.

Bre.ad enables you to share to three places - their own site, aggregating all shares within the network, ordered by chronology, as well as the standbys, Facebook and Twitter.

I Make a Toast to Charity Water

Before you share on Bre.ad, you first select an interest, brand or charity that you want to promote to your friends and make "a toast" explaining why you selected that cause. Having selected this promo, then you're ready to bake some bre.ad links.

Sharing My Link to Bre.ad

From that point, sharing links is pretty similar to other shorteners, like bit.ly, goo.gl and the rest. Copy the original link, enter accompanying text, and you're on your way. But Bre.ad also lets you pick a thumbnail for the share and a category, helping the bre.ad network know how your link should be categorized.

The resulting Tweet and Link

When friends bump into your bre.ad links on Twitter or other services, before they reach your link, they see your promo, which can last five seconds. For me, I picked Charity: Water, the fast-growing and incredibly interesting charity that's bringing clean drinking water to places that need it. For you, you might pick Apple, Nike, Lady Gaga or whatever you find interesting.

Think your connections won't mind a small ad before your content? That's what Bre.ad is betting on. You can sign up for their beta now. Doors are opening soon.

Zerply an Interesting Alternative to About.me, LinkedIn

The market for centralized indentity-driven personal profile pages is getting increasingly interesting, with players like About.me (see writeup) and Google (see writeup) in the mix alongside established social networks such as LinkedIn, Facebook and Twitter. One of the newer entrants, nearing exit from private beta, having recently joined the well-regarded 500 Startups accelerator, is a service called Zerply, who aims to connect a hybrid of your professional background with your social profiles.

Like About.me, Zerply profiles are tightly designed. Unlike About.me, which relies heavily on creative background art from the profile owners themselves, Zerply presents multiple themes to select, and once you've provided your social profile accounts and vacuumed up your professional history from either LinkedIn or Facebook, lays out the content in a pleasant way.


Zerply profiles lead with a short one-line description, as you see in most places, including Twitter, and a short bio, which can be anything you like of course. Visitors can download your vCard, email you, or check out your activity from around the Web. Dozens of social sites are supported, including all the regulars.

One's profile is divided into three portions:
  • The Basics
  • Experience
  • Education
The basics is your bio and social networks. Experience includes your employment history. Education includes your degrees. If your LinkedIn already has all this, importing is a breeze, or you just add it yourself. Just takes a few minutes.

Setting Up Zerply With Services and Interests


Zerply bills itself as "The easiest way to present yourself professionally". It is pretty easy, to be honest. And it is fairly professional. Better looking than LinkedIn, more professional than About.me, reaching a safe middle ground. Of course, it helps Zerply that most folks have already added information about themselves in third party services, so importing is simple. Otherwise, data collection still takes time.

Pulling In My LinkedIn Profile to Zerply

But where they have a distinct disadvantage versus About.me is in the naming. About.me has a smart way to tell people about you. Zerply is a lot less catchy, and it will take some effort for people to do the crazy thing I did, like changing my Twitter "about me" link to Zerply over one of the other sites. Google, Facebook and LinkedIn are no slouches either when it comes to centralized profiles.

Want in to Zerply? I do have a few invites, and you'll get some too, once you sign up. Start with this URL: http://zerply.com/invite/6ANB7VPDCWTz1ng.

May 25, 2011

Social.com Domain Is Up for Auction: Who Will Bid?

After owning what would seem to be an attractive and much sought-after domain name, social.com, for more than 15 years, the current owner, Scott Carter, is passing the torch to the highest bidder, after a few halted attempts to drive value from the premium URL didn't take off. Scott, who was the creator behind BigTweet, who I covered back in 2008, is now putting the site up for auction, which might be of interest to any number of startups, established social media players, daily deal flingers or free e-mail accounts.

In 2010, BigTweet converted to Social.com, acting as a bookmarklet that could post to downstream sites (such as Twitter and Delicious), without being considered a competitor to Ping.fm (owned by Seesmic). But that didn't prove lucrative.

Another pivot later, earlier this year, Scott and I traded emails, where he told me he had moved Social.com to act as a multi-user Wordpress site, with users gaining their own social.com as a subdomain for their blog. As he said in March, "Still getting started, so I haven't spent much time promoting it."

So today, it was finally announced the domain itself was up for auction. As Scott wrote, "I've tried a few ideas with it, but never quite found the right way to develop it ..." and on June 8th, Social.com, along with other premium domains, from Data.com, Skills.com, and HorseRacing.com, is going up for bid in an extended auction at the DOMAINfest Barcelona Auction Series.

While I doubt social companies with major brand names (Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, Google, etc.) would be interested, maybe others would? Maybe LivingSocial wants Social.com? Maybe SocialText wants Social.com? Maybe there's a new aggregation site that would love to be Social.com? Maybe MySpace will rebrand again? Who knows. Maybe Klout gets Social.com and Data.com and has a field day? We'll find out when the auction completes on June 22nd.

Teens In Tech Announces 2011 Conference, Incubator


As you know, one of the companies where I sit on the board of advisors is Teens In Tech, the youth geek oriented startup founded by Daniel Brusilovsky. The company has seen some changes in the two years since I partnered up with Daniel and the rest of the team, but the mission remains the same, to bring value to teens looking to get support through community, peer networking and industry advisory. Today, Teens In Tech is announcing their 2011 conference, scheduled for August 5th in Palo Alto. This comes on the heels of the launch of the company's Incubator program, which will help cultivate some exciting startups born from the minds of the next generation.

In the mold of Y! Combinator, TechStars and 500 Startups, the eight-week Incubator program kicks off on June 20th at Appcelerator in Mountain View. Five teams have been selected to participate, who you will no doubt hear about next month and beyond.

On August 5th, participants in the incubator will present as part of a Demo Day at the historically renowned Xerox PARC campus in Palo Alto, alongside this year's conference - which should be a highlight of the event. In addition, the event will feature speakers from Mozilla, Eventbrite, Audrey Capital, Flexibits, Cortex and others. Should be a great day to invigorate teens who are pushing to enter the fast-moving world of startups.

If you want to attend or know somebody who should, we'd love to have you there. Early bird tickets are available for $30 with tickets closer to the time of the event going at $40.

Quora Extends Mobile Reach With SMS Question Posting

Quora, the nascent question and answer site founded by a small team of former Facebookers, has expanded its mobile capabilities in the last week with the addition of posting questions by SMS, letting you interact with the service via text message, starting initially with US support. While remaining primarily desktop Web centric, this addition opens the door for mobile question posting for impulse queries, and mirrors the heavy reliance on SMS from another Valley high-flier, Twitter, who continues to count its texting users among the most active and most loyal.

Quora, true to form, has made the process of posting questions relatively simple, with single keystroke responses interacting with the system.

   
Once Confirmed, I Posted a Question to Quora on SMS


As with the standard product, Quora abhors duplicate questions. Ask a question via SMS, by texting your question to the Quora service (having first added your mobile phone via the site and confirming it on the handset), and Quora will ask you whether you want to follow a similar, existing question, or post the question net new. Not sure if your question has already been submitted? Just enter "M" for More, or click any of the numbers to toggle through (and follow) similar queries.

   
Quora Prompted Me to Follow Other Questions or Add It


I tested the service tonight, opting to start with a simple question.

I texted "What is the average lifespan of a beagle"?

Quora whirred into action, suggesting instead "What is the average lifespan of a blog?" and "What is the average lifespan of a race horse"? Opting for more got me "What is the average lifespan of a cell phone?" So there's some work to do. I changed the topic to be more tech-centric, where Quora has thrived, asking instead, "What is it like to be the CEO of a public company?". Unsatisfied with some of the preexisting questions, I just entered "A" to add my question, and it was posted.

   
Posting a Question about Being CEO of a Public Company Via SMS


Assuming you do post your question on Quora via SMS, they promise to extend the conversation in the same way. In a post introducing the feature, Shreyes Seshasai wrote, "When you select a question, we'll send you a summary of the top answer on the page, along with a link to the full question page so you can view it in your mobile browser. It's a quick and lightweight way to check answers on the site."

The Question Gets Posted to Quora As Any Other One Would


Quora has lofty aspirations. Making the product more mobile and pervasive, including this introduction of SMS support, will absolutely help. While I didn't find beagle to be the equal to blog or race horse, that's something the service will likely improve on with growth and more data being added to the system.

To find out more on Quora and SMS, check the initial post from last Thursday.

May 23, 2011

Honeycomb Plays Well on Samsung's 10 Inch Galaxy Tablet

My Honeycomb Home Screen Littered With Icons, Widgets

A 2010 convert to Samsung's 7" Galaxy Tab, I've long grown accustomed to Android on my tablets, and slowly watched my kids take over the use of our first generation WiFi iPads. While Google pushed manufacturers (and consumers) late last year to wait for the release of Android 3.0 (Honeycomb) for tablets, I got used to the build more appropriate for phones, in Froyo 2.2 on my Tab, and haven't had complaints, taking the 3G-enabled device with me practically everywhere, even in my suit pocket at church on Sundays. But when Honeycomb hit stores on the Motorola Xoom, I had to check it out, and I didn't fall in love, although I certainly tried. Despite three separate trips, to a Verizon store, to Best Buy and Staples, I had a hard time with the clunky hardware and what at the time was a nonintuitive interface.

My Apps on Honeycomb

In the ensuing months, Apple introduced the iPad 2, improving the product's hardware, and more manufacturers (including Samsung, LG, Acer and more) have delivered on their promise to build Android tablets on Honeycomb. Google I/O attendees were treated to free 10 inch Galaxy Tabs from Samsung, and this device is the one it seems Honeycomb was waiting for - even if it still doesn't fit in my jacket pocket. The device is extremely light, and Honeycomb has grown on me - with new features that make it fit even better between the world of mobile phones and the world of laptops.

The Gallery App on Honeycomb With a 10 Inch Screen

As with the standard Android interface I've been using for about a year, Honeycomb features not just the option to litter your screen with application shortcut icons but also, widgets, customizable by the app developer, with varying levels of interactivity, be it to change tracks on Google Music or Spotify, view new messages in your Gmail or other POP3 email accounts, or to track social media updates with your favorite client. Honeycomb assumes more real estate, and hopes you'll use it. The Galaxy Tab 10.1 features up to five home screens and widgets for practically every core app - from bookmarks to your calendar, the Android Market, and YouTube. YouTube and Market use a new three by two widget that rotates content to bring interesting items to the front. Beyond widgets and shortcuts, you can also post shortcuts to bookmarks, contacts, directions, email accounts, Gmail labels and other items on your home screen, keeping the display flexible.

Android Market for the Honeycomb Tablet and Featured Apps

The Honeycomb hardware to date has done away with hardware shortcut keys, putting software keys on the device for the home screen, back button and a new button that shows your last five active apps. This wouldn't make too much sense on a phone, but on the tablet, it leverages Android's fast switching and multitasking capabilities to bring you in and out of applications rapidly. Much like Command-Tab or Alt-Tab on Mac or Windows, this minor piece becomes used a lot.

Google Music Beta on Honeycomb on the Tablet

Android also continues to excel on bringing important notifications to the front without interrupting users. New email messages, Foursquare checkins and Twitter replies all cycle their way to the top, in the lower right hand corner of the device, instead of a top-down menu as Froyo and other 2.x based phones have offered. If one catches my eye, I just tap the alert and find myself in the appropriate app, with the option to return to my previous task quickly.

9 Innings from Com2US on the 10 Inch Honeycomb Tablet

To date, most of the criticism for Honeycomb has focused on the number of applications for the device. The good news is that practically all applications built for Froyo and the entire 2.x line work on Honeycomb, even if their rendering is not ideal. But this is like saying the iPhone apps all scale well to look good on the iPad, when of course, they don't. Most applications scale up and stretch out, but others that hardcode their apps for a 4 inch screen look pretty bad, filling the rest of the space with black pixels. This is true with the Mint.com app and a Texas Hold 'Em Poker game that worked great on the 7 inch Galaxy Tab, but are less great on the 10 inch tablet.

Reading a Book from NOOK on the 10 inch Galaxy Tab

Meanwhile, as I'm waiting for developers to build for Honeycomb and bring their apps, I was surprised that not all of my apps made the upgrade. For example, MLB At Bat is on my phone and my Galaxy Tab 7, but is marked as incompatible on the Galaxy Tab 10.1, so I can't get the app from here to there. Even if the experience is not perfect, it's not clear why it's blocked from installation. 

Duck Hunt is back and on the Honeycomb Tablet

That said, all the standard Google-centric apps look great on Honeycomb, from a tablet design for Gmail to Google Calendar, the included browser app and Maps. I've read entire books using the NOOK app from Barnes and Noble on the 10 inch tablet, and already wasted too many hours swinging at bad pitches with the 9 Innings baseball app from Com2Us. If sports isn't your thing, there's always the 8-bit NES throwback, Duck Hunt, which only asks you to shoot with your finger, leaving your trusted Nintendo Zapper behind.

My Gmail on the Honeycomb-based 10 inch Galaxy Tab

Clearly, I am living in an embarrassment of riches with my 10 inch iPads and Galaxy Tab strewn about next to the 7 inch Galaxy Tab and 7 inch NOOKColor in our home alongside our unfair share of laptops and phones, but despite this luxury, there is a growing use case for each device - as I take one for one use and put it down for another.

The 10 inch Galaxy Tab, running Honeycomb is, like the iPad before it, a great media device, for books, photos, video and music, with instant connectivity to cloud apps. It doesn't fit in my pocket, so I won't be taking it everywhere I go, and it didn't come with 3G attached, making me somewhat tethered to WiFi. But the stutters and frustrations I felt with the Xoom in my testing, plus its bulky form factor, are solved with Samsung's device. Honeycomb has some continued opportunities for improvement in simplicity, and developers are going to need to get their act together for the new form factor, but the device is quite nice - raising the bar for what tablets that don't bear the Apple brand are expected to deliver.

Disclosure: As previously noted, the Galaxy Tab 10 inch was distributed freely to Google I/O attendees, myself included. All other devices mentioned, including my Android phone, the NOOKColors, iPads and Galaxy Tab 7, were purchased on my dime. 

While Amazon Chokes on Lady Gaga, Spotify Flows

While Amazon is struggling to keep up with demand for their near-free $.99 sale of Lady Gaga's "Born This Way" album, frustrating many people, it's interesting to note that Spotify, the on-demand streaming music service based in Sweden, has had the full album, plus an additional set of tracks, available for free to Premium users for some time, and there are no issues in getting to the music, just another great example of why US customers who don't yet have access to the site, are missing out, and why heavy-handed tug of wars with the music labels involving Google, Apple and Amazon are keeping the best tech away from users, thanks to record executives hoping to keep their inflexible business models from being eaten alive.

With today's headlines focused on Amazon's 'exclusive' offer, and the resulting server meltdown, it's worth noting that Spotify users actually gained access to the same set of music back on Wednesday, May 18th. In fact, the album is aged enough in Spotify's eyes to no longer be included in their "Brand New Albums" section, replaced by even fresher tracks.

While access to the service here in the U.S. is still limited to those with explicit access, it continues to the best streaming library in the world, this just being the latest example. Don't love Lady Gaga? You don't have to listen, but at least on Spotify you can.


The Amazon offering provides 14 tracks plus a digital booklet for $.99. Peter Kafka notes Apple's iTunes offers the 22 song special edition for $15.99 and the standard album for $11.99. Spotify subscribers paying $9.99 a month (as I am) get it for an additional $0.

May 20, 2011

Samsung 2012 "Cloud Phone" to Tap Chromium or WebOS

At a Samsung Mobile Town Hall held in Sunnyvale yesterday evening, one of the company's executive vice presidents, Ho Soo Lee, EVP of the media solution center for Samsung, held court with developers and aspiring partners or future employees to highlight Samsung's position as the fastest-growing smartphone vendor, which has helped play a role in the company's growth to more than $130 billion in revenue for 2010, up 20 percent from the previous year, along with $15 billion in profit. To keep the company's position accelerating, Samsung is continuing its multiple mobile OS strategy, with Android and Bada being its one-two punch in 2011 with Windows Phone 7 also supported. But come 2012, the company has its sights set on a phone that is completely cloud-centric, much like Google's Chrome OS. To get there, Samsung is looking to tap Chromium, and has even considered approaching HP to see if they are willing to license WebOS.

Samsung, along with Apple and HTC, is one of the few handset manufacturers showing considerable market share growth in this competitive landscape. They achieved this with rapid release of handsets for a wide range of countries globally, support for multiple carriers in each, and platform leadership on both quality and quantity. The company's Galaxy S II model and the Galaxy Tab series (7 inch, 8.9 inch and 10.1 inch) are the leading options on the Android platform, going head to head with Apple's iOS. While the company has come under some criticism for slow release of Android milestone upgrades, and its proprietary approach to Bada, the company has achieved a 12.2 percent market share in smart phones, putting it in the 4th position worldwide.

As Lee explained to the packed room in Sunnyvale last night, the company's roadmap hopes to bring cutting edge features like WiFi display from the phone to the TV set, WQXGA support for high resolution tablet displays featuring resolution of 2560 x 1600 pixels, 3D accessories and smart phones. One new wrinkle is their stated plan to bring a "cloud phone". Lee said that at this time, Chromium, the open source Web browser project from Google Chrome, would be considered, adding "we are thinking about how to get WebOS right now", an interesting wrinkle, considering HP hasn't yet announced plans for licensing the mobile OS, born out the Palm acquisition, to date.

On the question of slowed updates to Android, and why the company isn't offering a "stock Android" model, Samsung said their strategy is to have their own user experience (UX), believing that their proprietary UI (called TouchWiz) "is a benefit to Samsung's customers". They stated that there is a lot of commitment internally to the company to improve on their pace of upgrades, but also that there is a lot of work to test the upgrades against devices and carriers globally, in addition to the physical act of pushing out the upgrade.

The company called the mobile phone "the center of your social life", referring to it as the most important communication medium, with mobile devices getting stronger as cloud capabilities advance. But they also understand that it takes more than feature one-upmanship to gain customer loyalty - something Apple has proven for decades.

"People don't care about the technology." Greg Dudey, Vice President of the Visual Displays UX Lab at Samsung said. "They care about what it can do. The next two years, we see we are going to be combating the technology experience, but after that, the ecosystem experience."