Rumor: Netflix May Bring Streaming Service to iPhone, Other Handsets

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Date: Tuesday, August 4th, 2009, 05:16
Category: iPhone 3GS, Rumor

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Citing an unnamed source described as “an industry executive familiar with Netflix’s plans,” an article in Multichannel News is claiming that Netflix will soon offer its Watch Instantly streaming video service on the iPhone, iPod touch and the Nintendo Wii.

The brief reportdescribes the move as the next step for Netflix’ content, which currently streams to Windows PCs, Macs, the Xbox 360, TiVo DVRs, the Roku, and certain TV and Blu-Ray players built to support video downloads.

Unlike its DVDs-by-mail service, Netflix’ Watch Instantly library offers much less variety, with limited popular content such as recent movies and TV series. Older titles and oddball independent films are also available for immediate viewing and the Watch Instantly service is also included for viewing at no extra cost over the base Netflix subscription, in contrast to iTunes’ pay per view pricing.

Unlike media purchased or rented from iTunes, Netflix’ streaming content plays back directly with no download. This requires no local storage on the playback device, but results in playback quality that is dependent upon the available network bandwidth. With iTunes and the Apple TV, content is progressively downloaded, enabling users to obtain HD content even with a slower connection, albeit with a longer wait.

The advantage of Netflix’ instantly streaming video is that little or no storage is required. If the iPhone and Wii are powerful enough to decode the live stream, this could add a new customer segment for Netflix, the users not having to worry about their devices storing the downloaded content.

Whether the iPhone or Wii could decode quality video only using software may be an issue, as Netflix playback on the more powerful Apple TV has been cited by some as not practical due to its lack of any Windows Media codec hardware acceleration.

Video playback over AT&T’s mobile network would likely also be prohibited by any Netflix streaming player app, making any iPhone version Wi-Fi only, in line with other video streaming apps such as SlingPlayer Mobile.

As a workaround to the iPhone’s intentionally missing support for Windows DRM, Netflix could also take a page from Google and utilize the native support in iPhone OS 3.0 for HTTP Live Streaming, which plays streaming video to the iPhone and iPod Touch using standard MPEG AAC/H.264 codecs over familiar web-based protocols.

At the launch of the iPhone, Google shifted its Flash-based YouTube service to also support H.264 at Apple’s behest, allowing the iPhone to work around the need for Flash playback while also delivering hardware accelerated video playback using open protocols.

Support for HTTP Live Streaming will also be built into QuickTime X playback for Snow Leopard, and appears to be slated for adoption in the next revision of Apple TV. Third parties will also be able to implement HTTP Live Streaming on their own devices.

Stay tuned for additional details as they become available.

Apple Systematically Pulling Google Voice, Similar Applications

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Date: Tuesday, July 28th, 2009, 06:24
Category: News

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Apple is apparently systematically yanking iPhone applications from the App Store that use Google Voice to simplify and reduce the costs of making phone calls, though it’s suspected Apple isn’t the one making the actual judgment call.

According to AppleInsider, developer Sean Kovacs, was surprised on Monday to discover that his GV Mobile client for Google Voice was to be pulled from the App Store as it was allegedly duplicating the iPhone’s calling and text messaging features. Apple representative Richard Chipman contacted him personally but not only wasn’t specific about what could be fixed but wouldn’t provide e-mail to confirm the takedown.

Although individual removals aren’t uncommon, later reports have surfaced that Apple had pulled VoiceCentral, another competitor, and had even denied Google when it tried to quietly submit a Google Voice app six weeks ago in spite of its corporate partnerships with Apple.

The systematic disappearances don’t currently have a larger official explanation but, given the common thread of their using the same service, is now thought less to a matter of Apple guarding its built-in features and more cellular carriers pushing it to keep the service out. Google Voice not only allows users one virtual phone number to call multiple real phones but greatly reduces the cost of outbound long-distance and messaging, all of which potentially deprive AT&T and eventually other carriers of possible extra revenue.

Such an unspoken ban would also go a step beyond normal restrictions on which apps are allowed and what they can do. In the past, carriers have argued against allowing voice over IP apps such as Fring and Skype on the cellular network for technical reasons, such as latency; the lag on even a 3G network is high enough that holding a regular conversation isn’t really feasible, for example. In restricting Google Voice, which still uses the regular voice network for much of its activity, the primary advantage is to eliminate competition.

Neither Apple nor AT&T have offered official comments on the issue.

Apple Changes Newest iPhone Model Name to “iPhone 3GS”

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Date: Tuesday, June 23rd, 2009, 05:01
Category: iPhone, News

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In a move that may seem both a little odd but actually makes sense, Apple has quietly changed the way it is spelling the new iPhone 3GS, which now appears without a space all of Apple’s press materials.

According the Macworld UK, Apple’s website is still using the “iPhone 3G S” term. The general understanding is that it is officially “iPhone 3GS” from now on and that the main website will be updated shortly.

When the iPhone 3GS first launched, there was much consternation amongst the press as to the correct spelling of the new product, compounded by the logo – which places the “S” inside a small square.

Apple helped clarify matters by issuing press releases with the term “iPhone 3G S”. But just four days into the launch it has changed the spelling to iPhone 3GS, and reworked all of its press materials to mark the new change.

One that is that the revised name offers more clarity for Google, and other web search engines, helping avoid confusion between searches for the new and old model of iPhone.

On the other hand, there may be a legal reason behind the move. It may be that Apple’s legal department pointed out that 3G is a generic term, and that S is a generic term and that “3G S” would be difficult to copyright; whereas “3GS” would be more easy to protect.

Or there may be another, unknown reason. An Apple spokesman allegedly commented to media that “we just feel it looks better with the 3GS all together.”

Google Releases Early Beta of Chrome Web Browser for Mac OS X

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Date: Friday, June 5th, 2009, 09:02
Category: Software

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It ain’t for the faint of heart, but according to Macworld UK, the Google team released an early beta of its long-anticipated Chrome web browser for Mac OS X.
Under the heading “Danger: Mac and Linux builds available” the Google Chromium blog warns of the following:
“In order to get more feedback from developers, we have early developer channel versions of Google Chrome for Mac OS X and Linux, but whatever you do, please DON’T DOWNLOAD THEM! Unless of course you are a developer or take great pleasure in incomplete, unpredictable, and potentially crashing software.”
“How incomplete? So incomplete that, among other things, you won’t yet be able to view YouTube videos, change your privacy settings, set your default search provider, or even print.”
“Meanwhile, we’ll get back to trying to get Google Chrome on these platforms stable enough for a beta release as soon as possible!”
Take a gander if you’re feeling brave and let us know what you make of it…

Microsoft Launches Bing Preview

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Date: Tuesday, June 2nd, 2009, 13:59
Category: Microsoft, Software

Having lost the battle to acquire Yahoo! so many times, Microsoft decided it still needed to get into the search engine business, and this weekend they launched a “preview” of the service.

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Called “bing“, the service doesn’t look much unlike Google, except for some prettier formatting. Opinions online seem pretty varied so far, as people try to test the new engine search capabilities. Much like the recent Wolfram|Alpha preview, most users seem polarized from being very impressed, to not at all, with search results of some terms leaving much to be desired. However, as a preview, it seems to do a pretty good job.

Personally, I did not spend a lot of time hammering on the service, but I did find the image search to be very good, and I liked the way the images were displayed where a roll-over would give you the additional details and location of the picture.

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It also seemed pretty fast compared to Google, but maybe bing just doesn’t have enough data to bog it down yet. If there was one thing that really disappoints me about the service, it is that I don’t see anything new or revolutionary. Perhaps that is coming, but it seems like Microsoft is doing the usual thing and just putting their spin on something somebody else has already done. Come on guys, lets see some innovation!

Send us your thoughts in the forums!

Google Releases Picasa 3.0.5 Update

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Date: Tuesday, May 5th, 2009, 07:24
Category: Software

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Late Monday, software giant Google released Picasa 3.0.5, the latest version of its photo organization program for the Mac.
Once installed, Picasa imports (without moving or copying) photos from the iPhoto library as well as other folders and external hard drives on your Mac. The program also includes assorted editing tools for straightening, text generation, red eye removal, collage creation and Photoshop-like effects and adjustments.
The new version, a 17.6 megabyte download, offers the following fixes and changes:

  • Added support for several new RAW file formats.
  • Now you can upload videos larger than 100MB.
  • Better previews when using Sharpen, Glow, or Film Grain.
  • Improvements for syncing to Picasa Web Albums.
  • Various minor bug fixes and stability improvements.
  • Picasa 3.0.5 requires Mac OS X 10.4 or later to install and run.

    Voice Recognition Feature Seems Likely for iPhone OS 3.0

    Posted by:
    Date: Wednesday, April 22nd, 2009, 08:22
    Category: iPhone, Rumor

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    As the iPhone OS 3.0 beta software has been picked apart, some interesting new discoveries have emerged for consideration. The latest one, which centers around voice recognition and voice synthesis, may take the cake, though.
    According to Ars Technica, the software, nicknamed “Jabbler”, will be built into the SpringBoard application (the software component that controls the home screen, launches other applications and will be the basis of the upcoming Spotlight search feature).
    Jabbler will likely have voice functionality similar to the software bundled with the latest iPod Shuffle, i.e. a computerized voice reading off playlists and other textually-based content.
    Sources close to the story have mentioned the upcoming feature, which has yet to be confirmed by official Apple sources. The ability to control voice features via the iPhone headset has also been mentioned.
    Voice control features could bring the iPhone up to speed with many other phones that come with voice-dialing, and will broaden the playing field with a voice search function like the Google app as well as be useful for turn-by-turn GPS navigation, eBook reading capabilities, and on-the-spot note-taking.

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    Camino Reaches Version 1.6.7

    Posted by:
    Date: Wednesday, April 1st, 2009, 08:38
    Category: Software

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    Late Tuesday, the Camino Project released version 1.6.7 of Camino, its free, open source web browser.
    The new version, a 15.3 megabyte download, adds the following fixes and changes:

  • Upgraded to version 1.8.1.21 of the Mozilla Gecko rendering engine, which includes several critical security and stability fixes.
  • OpenSearch plug-ins containing ampersands will now work correctly on Mac OS X 10.3.9.
  • Cookies without a valid name no longer prevent display of the list of stored cookies.
  • Quitting Camino with the pop-up blocker visible should no longer cause a crash.
  • Find will now work properly when viewing JavaScript files which use the new JavaScript MIME type definitions.
  • The default browser pop-up menu will no longer show a blank default browser on clean Mac OS X 10.5 installations.
  • Selecting an item from a context menu after its window has closed will no longer cause a crash.
  • The icon for the Google feed handler has been updated to match the new Google site icon.
  • Upgraded the “Block flash animations” code to use Flashblock 1.5.8.
  • Improved ad-blocking.
  • Camino requires Mac OS X 10.3.9 or later to run.
    If you’ve tried the new version of Camino and have any kind of feedback about it, let us know in the comments or forums.

    (more…)

    Sprint Adds 4G Service to More Cities

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    Date: Tuesday, March 31st, 2009, 13:42
    Category: Mobile, Services

    In a press release, Sprint announced that they are expanding their 4G network coverage in 2009 to cover more cities. Along with the service will be announcements, later this year, of new 4G devices and offerings.

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    Sprint advertises that its 4G service is good for peak download speeds of 12 Mbps and average download speeds of 2-4 Mbps. This is available today on its Baltimore network, which was the rollout city for 4G in mid-2008.

    Sprint’s 4G network relies on the WiMAX standard for mobile broadband. Recently, Google and Sprint had announced a formal partnership in deploying WiMAX technology, with Google providing search content along with Sprint. Sprint is aggresively pushing for deployment and adoption of the 4G technology to help gain leadership in the race to beat out other carriers to control the fastest mobile data network. To this end, it would seem that the 3G network technology is being left behind in spite of insufficient coverage and bandwidth across the country.

    It will be interesting to see how competitors like AT&T and Apple’s iPhone will respond to Sprint’s efforts, and how they will manage to remain the leaders of “the internet in your pocket”.

    Google Launches Google Voice

    Posted by:
    Date: Friday, March 13th, 2009, 15:08
    Category: Google, News

    This week Google launched the latest of its technology services, Google Voice, an online voicemail service that promises “one phone number for all your phones, for life”. However, Google Voice did not originally sprout from Google’s tech labs, it started out as GrandCentral. The GrandCentral service was launched in 2006 and was acquired by Google in 2007 for US$50+ million. Shortly after the acquisition, Google shut down the creation of new accounts, so only then current subscribers (like myself) have been able to use the service.
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    Now after nearly two years, the wait is over…almost. Google has spent a lot of time rewriting GrandCentral to give it that special Google “glow” and is available to current GrandCentral subscribers only. Google will be doling out new accounts over time. Logging into your GrandCentral account will may prompt you to “upgrade” to Google Voice and migrate your data. If you don’t already have one, you will need to create a Google account to do this. Once complete, you will be deposited into your new Google Voice Inbox and will have to recreate your custom greetings and assignments. The migration does not, however, appear to transfer your GrandCentral contacts or any messages you had in your inbox, but you can still log into your GrandCentral account separately to access those. Google Voice will use your Google contacts, if you have any, so you will need to recreate any missing contacts there. Any new calls you get to your GrandCentral number will be deposited in the new Google Voice Inbox.
    All the original features are there, call-screening, custom greetings for different groups of contacts, sending SMS and email notices of received calls, and forwarding calls to other phones. With the launch of the new service, Google has added new features such as Voicemail Transcription which converts your voicemails to text and can be searched and tagged within Google Voice. You can now use SMS to send messages from your Google Voice number, rather than using one number for voice and a second for texting. This was one of the biggest complaints from GrandCentral users. SMS messages sent through the service will also be searchable and taggable. And competing directly with services such as Skype, Google has added conference calling with up to six people, with recording features, as well as an international calling service with rates similar to Skype’s. Your balance, as well as the ability to add credit through Google Checkout, are in the Google Voice sidebar.
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    It may have taken a long time, but the service seems to be mature enough now with the added features to be a suitable replacement for most people’s current voicemail services. It is especially compelling if you are already using other Google services, such as GMail, with it’s combined contacts and searching capabilities. Like Google’s other services, Google Voice will be FREE, except for the international calling feature, which is making the new service a highly prized commodity among online users. Account invitations offered by various news sites have already been spoken for and can be found on eBay for as much as US$650! I will be putting the new service through it’s paces to see if it is worth trying to switch over again and trying to get people to use the new number. Wish me luck!