Google Glass devices sent to first users outside company for testing

Google has begun shipping its Google Glass “wearable computing” devices to its first users outside the company – and released guides so developers can write software for it.

But one thing developers have been told is banned: showing advertising to wearers.

Although almost all of Google’s revenue – and more than 98% of its profits – comes from advertising, the company is initially shying away from showing adverts on the device, which has an embedded screen in the upper-right-hand corner of the right-hand lens that the company says provides resolution which is “the equivalent of a 25in high definition screen from eight feet away.”

The voice-controlled Google Glass is able to display information in the screen from the internet via a wireless connection to a smartphone, but also to take pictures and video using a front-facing camera.

According to the details provided, the camera has a five-megapixel resolution, while videos will be 720p HD resolution. Audio feedback comes from a “bone conduction transducer” which rests on the ear and uses the sound-transmitting properties of the bone around the ear to improve sound.

Google is promising that the battery should last for “one full day of typical use” – though it adds that features such as video recording and “Hangouts” (where users join shared video chatrooms) will use up more battery.

The devices will cost about $1,500 (£980) each, and are expected to go on general sale later this year. But first Google is seeding them to about 4,000 “Glass Explorers” who won an online competition to try them out and give their outsider’s opinion about its usability.

Meanwhile, the Google Developer terms for those writing applications – which it calls “Glassware” – for the service says bluntly “No ads. You may not serve or include any advertisements in your [application].” Developers are also banned from using data from people wearing Glass for advertising – including selling or sending that data to third-party networks – or charging for access to their apps and functionality.

That could present a problem for some of the companies which have already signed up to provide apps for it. Those include the New York Times and the cloud data store company Evernote.

Concerns about the potential for Glass wearers to be distracted while driving have already led to some calls for their use to be banned in the same way as handling mobile phones while driving. Others have expressed concerns about privacy and the question of who owns rights to pictures taken by Glass users in semi-private settings such as restaurants.

Now That We Have All These Devices, It’s Time For Them To Truly Work Together

Cross-platform is the buzzword of all the big tech companies now. During every Google earnings call, like clockwork, CEO Larry Page dedicates considerable time discussing the company’s focus on making sure users have a seamless experience and equal access to services as they switch between devices. In general, that’s already a reality if you know where to look. But there’s so much more potential.

No matter how much mobile applications talk to one another and sync information back and forth, our devices are still essentially distinct from one another, tied together by cloud services that transfer the information to services and then back and forth between each other. But they’re still ultimately separate, and that means a lot of missed opportunity.

What I’d love to see, and what some are already exploring with projects like the Inferno cross-platform operating system, is a way for all these devices to pool not only the information and media we store on them, but also their resources and raw computing power.

Don’t get me wrong; I love that my iPad operates as a completely standalone computer, as opposed to something that needs to be continually tethered to a central tower, like some of the earliest interactive tablet screens. But the fact that I’m now carrying a fairly powerful computer in my pocket in the form of my iPhone, and that both it and my iPad can’t pool their cumulative resources when necessary to accomplish tasks better and faster is starting to seem like an unnecessary failing.

It’s much more likely that we’ll see more and more processing duties handed off to server farms with the growth of cloud services, especially since there’s greater financial incentive to make that happen in terms of being able to charge for the bandwidth needed to make it happen. But when your television, appliances, phone, router, tablet, notebooks and PCs all have powerful processors on board and plenty of computing power, much of which they aren’t even using most of the time, it seems absurd that we have turn to a remote facility miles away to handle our computing demands.

Every tech company today talks about the age of cross-platform computing, where it doesn’t matter what kind of device you use, you get access to the same content. Facebook’s recent News Feed redesign is all about unifying the experience; Microsoft made a big bet on a shared UI with Windows 8 and Windows Phone; Google is moving in that direction with ChromeOS and Android; and Apple is continually adding more features pioneered on iOS back into OS X and tightening the links between the two with services like iCloud.

Now, however, the time has come for someone to take the next step, and bring our devices together in ways that maximize the truly amazing potential they have as a collective, which dwarfs even the impressive things they can now all do on their own.

Analyst Says Apple Will Introduce ‘iRing’ This Year

It sounds like a bad April Fool’s joke delivered two days too late. But, in reality, this is a legitimate headline resulting from new claims made by one of Wall Street’s most prominent industry analysts.

On Wednesday, Brian White of Topeka Capital Markets told investors that Apple will not only launch it’s iTV this year, the company will “revolutionize the TV experience forever” by introducing the iRing, which will control the connected HDTV.

White tells Apple Insider that the “iTV” will come with a “mini iTV” screen capable of letting users view content on the smaller 9.7-inch display.

This “secondary display” could provide iTV owners with an added resource to be used for everything from home security to video conferencing.

“Essentially, we believe the ‘mini iTV’ screens will be able to capture content from the 60-inch ‘iTV’ across a distance of up to 200 meters, allowing a user to view ‘iTV’ content in the kitchen, washroom, garage, bedroom, backyard, etc.,” White says. “We believe Apple will offer one ‘mini iTV’ per ‘iTV,’ but package options will include up to four screens (i.e., one screen is part of the standard package and pay extra for each additional.”

Mobile phone’s 40th anniversary: from ‘bricks’ to clicks

Mobile phone technology has come a long way since the first mobile phone call was made 40 years ago – but there is a lot more innovation ahead, according to one expert.

It was on 3 April 1973 that Motorola employee Martin Cooper made a call in New York on a Motorola DynaTAC – dubbed a “brick” due to its size and weight – which was widely regarded globally as the first public mobile phone call.

The device was 9 inches tall, comprised 30 circuit boards, had a talk-time of 35 minutes, and took 10 hours to recharge.

Four decades on, a worldwide telecoms industry with annual revenues of £800bn has grown rapidly based on wide choice, falling prices and an array of technologies, resulting in the average mobile being used to take photos, play music and games, send emails, download maps, watch video clips, all as well as talking and texting.

Mike Short, an expert from the Institution of Engineering and Technology, said Cooper’s phone call is the first public call people recognise as being a cellular mobile call.

He said the 10 years following that first call were “very much developmental”, with research being carried out in laboratories before services were launched in 1981 in the US.

“Since its first use 40 years ago, the mobile phone has completely changed our lives. The first decade was a research or a ‘demonstrator’ phase, rapidly followed by analogue networks deployed over 10 years from the early 1980s largely based on carphones and used in business in the developed world.

“This soon led to the digital decade mainly between 1993 and 2003 when consumerisation and globalisation of mobile really took off.

“This led to a further data adoption phase with the arrival of 3G and during 2003 to 2013 access to the internet and the wider use of smartphones became a reality,” he said.

The two most significant developments in mobile phone technology have been the widespread availability of devices and their ability to access the internet, Short said.

“In the early days of mobile, consumerisation was not considered. It was made for men in suits in business, whereas consumerisation followed much later.

“And then access to the internet followed much later again. The first smartphones weren’t until about five years ago. So the pace of change has actually sped up over the 40 years, particularly in the past 15 to 18 years,” he said.

Short expects mobile technology to continue to evolve and said people can expect even more developments in future.

“More changes are expected. The early days of mobile were all about voice, whereas today it’s much more about data.

“And the point about data is that we can carry voice calls over the data channel, but in future we’ll move towards fuller data services such as video – much more video to video calling, much more screens on the wall in your home, maybe more video television downloaded, catchup TV, that sort of thing.

“So there’s a lot more innovation to come, particularly in the data and video worlds,” he said.

Mobile phone users will have noticed these changes in the last few years, as phones have become more affordable and sit lightly in the palm of their hand – but innovators are working to enhance these aspects of modern devices further.

Short said: “The cost has already fallen a long way. What tends to happen is you get more functionality per pound spent.

“That would include more memory, that would include more features, that would include more capability to access the internet at higher speeds.

“The weight has dropped dramatically already, but we’re seeing, probably this year, the first watch-based phones.”

With improvements and changes implemented so frequently, Dr Short said it is hard to know what exactly to expect in the next 40 years, but it is safe to assume millions more people in the world will have access to mobile phones.

“It’s very difficult to predict 40 years’ time because the pace of innovation is speeding up. I would say that we’ll all be mobile, globally, everyone will be mobile.

Tablet Shipments To Grow 69.8% YoY To 197M Units In 2013, As PCs/Laptops Decline 7.3% To 315M Units

Gartner has published its latest report with smart devices projections for smartphones, tablets, ultramobiles and PCs from 2012 to 2017, and it’s as clear picture as you can get of how mobile rules today and will continue to dominate the device landscape tomorrow. Echoing results from IDC’s global device forecast last month, Gartner’s numbers make more grim reading for Microsoft — the company with the most to lose as the old empire of the PC continues its slow decline, trumped by the price, simplicity and convenience of Android and iOS-powered mobile computing devices.

Gartner is projecting a 7.3% decline in the traditional desktop and laptop computer category this year, although ultramobile devices (portables running a full desktop OS such as Microsoft’s Surface Pro tablet, pictured above) are expected to offset the decline slightly — so the collective drop for these two categories is projected to be 3.5%.

But the real engine of growth is of course tablets, with worldwide shipments forecast to total 197 million units in 2013: a 69.8% increase on 2012 shipments of 116 million units. By 2017, Gartner expects tablets to be outshipping desktop computers and ultramobiles combined, although it does not make a specific prediction for the tipping point year for tablets. (IDC said last month that it expects tablet shipments to outstrip PCs this year, and portable PCs next year.)

Over its forecast period Gartner also projects steady growth for smartphones. Overall, the total smart devices market is projected to grow 9% this year, to reach 2.4 billion units.

“You need to own consumers in terms of mobile and tablet in order to remain relevant in this market,” said Gartner analyst Carolina Milanesi. Gone are the days when Windows is the “default” option for the majority of consumers, thanks to alternatives being too technical (Linux) or too expensive (Macs), she said. “Consumers have options and consumers are choosing and Microsoft can not take that for granted that they’ll be the one to be chosen.”

Google redesigns Play Store app with card-based interface

The Play Store has never been the most attractive item in Google’s Android app portfolio, but it’s getting a major makeover today. As previously leaked, the redesign does away with the dark theme in favor of a colorful new interface that uses the Google Now-style cards metaphor to display a stream of recommendations.

Images are bigger, icons are clearer, and from what we’ve seen it looks to be a big improvement that falls in line withGoogle’s new-found focus on design. That said, we’ll have to wait for it to roll out completely before passing further judgement — some users on Android 2.2 and above should start seeing it from today, but Google says it’ll take a few weeks to reach everyone.

The mobile war is over and the app has won: 80% of mobile time spent in apps

Only 20 percent of American consumers’ time on mobile devices is spent on the web. A massive majority, 80 percent, is spent in apps: games, news, productivity, utility, and social networking apps.

Turns out, it’s an app world, after all.

According to app analytics firm Flurry, which tracks app usage on a staggering 300,000 apps on over a billion active mobile devices, we spend an average of 158 minutes each and every day on our smartphones and tablets. Two hours and seven minutes of that is in an app, and only 31 minutes is in a browser, surfing the old-school web.

A big chunk of that 158 minutes is taken up with games — 32 percent — but it’s almost shocking to see how much time a single app and a single company eats up. Eighteen percent of all the time that Americans spend on their phones is spent in the Facebook app, a figure that by itself dwarfs all other social networking apps.

Combined, the others only take up six percent of our time.

There was a time when developers thought HTML5 would kill the mobile app, with experts like Mike Rowehl saying things like: “We’ll forget that we even passed through another era of native apps on the way to the mobile web.”

In an interesting twist, however, HTML5 is actually being used more as a tool for cross-platform native app development. In fact, it’s now the number one choice for developers building apps for multiple platforms.

Flurry also says that people are now using more apps than ever, launching 7.9 per day in the last part of 2012 versus 7.5 per day in 2011 and 7.2 per day in 2010. Consumers are continuing to try new apps as well, with long-term users adding new apps regularly to their existing stack.

“We believe that with consumers continuing to try so many new apps, the app market is still in early stages and there remains room for innovation as well as breakthrough new applications,” Flurry says.

Is the mobile web dead?

Not necessarily — we’re only five years into this ongoing mobile revolution. But today, people are talking with their taps, and they’re overwhelmingly choosing apps.

Amazon’s Smartphone is ‘Almost Ready

Supply chain chatter out of Asia suggests that Amazon’s long-rumored smartphone is almost ready to begin mass production ahead of an anticipated early summer launch.

According to published reports Wednesday, Amazon has designed a striking smartphone with a dazzling 4.7-inch display.

“The company was previously considering a 4.3-inch screen but later scrapped the idea after witnessing increased demand for larger size screens among consumers,” the sources tell Digitimes.

For close to two years now, the rumored Amazon-branded smartphone has been on the drawing board.

As MMW reported earlier this month, the device was expected to enter the market by now, but the “smartphone  is still under its engineering verification test (EVT) period due to issues related to its mobile platform.”

“It’s smart for Amazon to get its software perfect before releasing a phone,” says Jay Yarow of Silicon Alley Insider. “It’s going to launch into a very crowded market: iOS and Android dominate, but Microsoft and Blackberry both have very good platforms vying for third place.”

Next Two iPhones Were Designed Under Steve Jobs

Apple’s next two iPhones were designed before late Apple CEO Steve Jobs passed away in October 2011.

That revelation comes to us from San Francisco District Attorney George Gascón who has been in contact with Apple’s government liaison Michael Foulkes.

Gascón, who is working to spread technology capable of mitigating cellphone-related thefts in San Francisco, reveals that Apple won’t be able to initiate a so-called “kill switch” on the iPhone any time soon.

The kill switch, as you might expect, can be remotely activated by a consumer if their cellphone is lost or stolen.

According to Gascón, the next two iPhone models have already been designed – under Steve Jobs – and can’t be reworked to include the kill-switch technology at this time.

Global IT Spend Will Rise 4.1% To $3.8 Trillion In 2013, ‘A Calm Ocean With Turbulent Currents’, With Mobile Driving Growth

Gartner has just released its annual projections on worldwide IT spend over the next two years, covering sales in hardware, software, enterprise and telecoms. The overall trends continue to point up: globally we will see $3.8 trillion spent across all categories, a rise of 4.1% on 2012. That’s a sign of slight recovery on a year ago: growth in 2012 was only 2.1%. Mobile application development and enterprise services are fuelling a lot of the good news, with declines in areas of legacy technology like PCs and voice services.

Telecoms services will continue to account for the biggest proportion of IT spend, at $1.69 billion of spend, nearly 45% of the total.

But they are also a sign of how times are changing, with declines in some areas and growth in others. Specifically, fixed voice services — which not only have been commoditized through competition, but are becoming less used by consumers who opt for mobile-only contracts — will continue diminish in size. Meanwhile, mobile data services, driven by trends in smartphone and tablet usage, continue to grow. These two trends will offset each other, resulting in “roughly flat” growth over this year and the next, says Gartner.

The rise of mobile is being felt in other categories, too.

Hardware sales — noted as “devices” in Gartner’s table below — will be the fastest-growing category this year, up nearly 8% to $718 billion, or 19% of all IT spend. PC sales, however, will be flat, and printer sales are in decline — another two signs of how there is some pain and woe still to come for some companies working in legacy technologies. (The current state of play with Dell being one specific sign of that.) Gartner notes that the rise in devices is down to the impact of mobile, a result of the rise in smartphone usage, which has been so strong that Gartner actually raised its previous device forecast of 6.3% growth.

 

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