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App Development

How They Make The Oscars & The iTunes Oscar App

Hollywood is preparing to shine for the 84th Academy Awards. The event marks the biggest night of the year for the movie business and movie makers and movie-goers are looking forward to Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences (AMPAS) big show.


This photo from 1970 shows how Oscar is made: The statue is dipped in layers of copper, nickel and gold. The process remains relatively the same today.

Who’s going to win an Oscar the 2012 Academy Awards? And just who makes up this “Academy?” A recent Los Angeles Times article recently revealed some interesting facts about its members:

  • The Academy is overwhelmingly white (94 percent).
  • Members are mostly male (77 percent).
  • Most Academy members are older than 50 (84 percent).
  • Hundreds of Academy members no longer work on movie sets, and some haven’t worked in the film business in decades.
  •  

Getting a Behind-the-Scenes Look
For non-Academy outsiders there’s an app that will allow you to explore even more of the Oscar experience. Courtesy of ABC Digital, the free Oscars app provides you with behind-the-scenes coverage and plenty of awards-night glitz.


One of the coolest features? The app will provide users with more than a dozen live video streams on Oscar night.

If you’ve always wished you could sneak inside the famed “Governor’s Ball” after party, here’s your chance. The app even includes a feature that allows you to share your Oscar predictions with friends via FaceBook.

Want to go even further behind the scenes of the movies? Then get inside the industry by learning the art of digital filmmaking.

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posted by Phill Powell in App Development,News Blog and have No Comments

Best Productivity Accessories for Your New iPad

Using the iPad’s touch keyboard is bittersweet, it’s convenient but compact. And many people don’t like smudging the glass screen with even more fingerprints. Still as a productivity device, the iPad rules. It’s portable and versatile.


A wireless keyboard is just one of the great accessories the iPad supports.

The iPad is a revolutionary device, most notably it’s helped change how education, business, and medicine perform daily tasks. More and more it’s used for productivity – and not just for sending email.

Wireless Keyboard
If you want to use the iPad to write, a wireless keyboard is mandatory. Apple’s woreless keyboard is bluetooth enabled and features the same sleek design as the rest of the Apple line. Hint: Buy the rechargable battery pack, it will save you when your keyboard runs out of juice.

HD AV Adapter
Got a presentation you need to show to a client? Ready to show those photos of the holiday ski trip to Grandma? An Apple AV adapter can be just the ticket. The adapter plugs right into the 30-pin port and outputs to HDMI. Now you can mirror anything on your iPad on the big screen – apps, photos, videos, iBooks and more.


You can watch movies, play games and even show off presentations using the Apple AV cable.

Touchfire
TouchFire is an ultra-thin (we’re talking credit-card thin) and ultra-light keyboard overlay that provides some much needed tactile love to your fingertips – and it does so in such a sleek and elegant manner you’d think Apple made it themselves. It’s transparent (so yo can still see the onscreen keyboard) and fits snuggly to the iPad with magnets. It’s also super compact (and can be slipped into its own carrying case) so you don’t have to lug a larger keyboard.

Compatible with both the iPad and the iPad 2. Unfortunately – it’s not available just yet, TouchFire was a Product Design project on Kickstarter.com, hopefully it will be coming to a store near you soon.

Still Looking for the Perfect iPad Helper?
The are other great iPad accessories for your camera and more – and don’t forget about all the great productivity apps out there too.

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posted by Seamus Harte in App Development,News Blog and have No Comments

Kindle Fire OS and Kindle iOS Apps Updated

Did you get (or give) a Kindle Fire this holiday? Amazon thanks you – like Apple, Amazon is keen to keep its customers happy. And to that end, last week, Amazon updated the new Kindle Fire and iOS with new features.


The Kindle Fire has sold well over a million units in just a few short weeks.

It’s On Fire!
Amazon has been aggressively going after digital media technologies and trying to hard to maintain it’s foothold as a digital bookseller. Recently, Amazon’s first tablet, the Kindle Fire became a hot-seller and its iPhone and iPad apps are among the top downloads in the App Store. Still users complained about functionality for both the Fire – mainly one that didn’t allow users the ability to remove things from the carousel – and the Kindle Fire app, but thanks to a new update those issues have been addressed.

Kindle Fire Updates

  • Users can now “edit” what shows up in the app carousel on the Fire’s home screen – before users couldn’t remove any items.
  • Touch navigation has been improved.
  • The OS and hardware are more responsive, web pages load much faster.

 
Kindle App for iOS

  • Updated user interface for periodicals and text books – this includes access to the same selection of more than 400 magazines and newspapers that are offered on the Kindle Fire.
  • “Print replica textbooks” are now available for the first time to iOS Kindle app users. This allows users to see full-color pages, the ability to zoom in/out and take notes as you read.
  • The Kindle iOS app can now be used as a PDF reader. This feature was already available in iBooks.

 
Amazon & Apps
Driving tablets like the Kindle Fire and iPad are powerful apps. The Kindle Fire uses Google Android Apps, while the iPad uses apps that are developed exclusively for iOS. Apple’s App Store has four times the amount of apps than the Android app store but since app development is one of the largest and fastest growing sections of digital media, expect apps – especially Android apps to grow drastically in the next few years.

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posted by DMA Phill in App Development,News Blog and have No Comments

Who Sent the First Text Message?

Richard Jarvis was at a Christmas party in Newbury England when he looked down at his phone on December 3, 1992 and got a message of holiday cheer – “Merry Christmas” the text read.


It’s much easier to send texts today…But don’t forget – text and data charges may apply!

It was a simple message, and the world’s first text. Sent from the computer of Neil Papworth, (then a 22-year-old test engineer for Sema Group) the “Merry Christmas” message was almost as simple as “Mr. Watson, come here,” the very first words spoken on the telephone. At that time, cell phones weren’t able to type out text, so the message had to come from Papworth’s computer – not like today’s iPhone.

160 Characters
After the first text message was sent it took another few years to formalize a business model. But the concept of texting happened years before. Friedhelm Hillebrand was a communications researcher from Bonn, Germany, he came up the 160 character length after typing out random sentences and questions on a piece of paper in 1985.

A year later Hillebrand would be the chairman of the non-voice services committee for the Global System for Mobile Communications. GSM would establish standards for most of the global mobile market, Hillebrand and the group set the requirement that all cellular carriers and mobile phones, support short messaging service (SMS).

They arrived at 160 characters based on two “convincing arguments,” Hillebrand would later tell. Postcards contained fewer than 150 characters and after analyzing messages sent through Telex, a then popular business network that used short telegraph-like messages, Hillebrand and his group found those messages were about the same length as postcards. The rest as they say, is history…

This guy is the reason your texts are 160 characters…

Mobile Development
Text messaging has evolved a long way, as a generation of texters, we’ve created our own language, LOL’ing and TMI’ing our thoughts to everyone. The next generation of mobile device programming wizards will be deciding how smartphones will evolve and write their own history.

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posted by Vince Matthews in App Development,News Blog and have No Comments

Should I Buy A Kindle Fire?

This holiday season tablets are dominating shopping lists – but which tablet should you buy? One tablet that has been getting a lot attention lately is Amazon’s Kindle Fire. But for $200, is it a worthy tablet? Well, we brought one and tested it, here’s our review:


Like the iPad and other tablets, you can watch movies, reads books – and play games on the Kindle Fire. 

Kindle Fire
Cost: $199.99
Rating: 3 1/2 out of 5

We ordered our tablet like you will – through Amazon. Shipping was free for the $10 Gift Card (we bought it to buy apps and not have to give Amazon a credit card, more on that later), and the standard free shipping took the five days Amazon promised. The Kindle Fire arrived in Amazon’s plain cardboard box, but the inner carton, containing the Amazon Kindle was equally bland.

Amazon is actually losing money on the Kindle Fire (industry insiders say it costs around $219 to make each Kindle Fire), so it shouldn’t be a surprise that they spent absolutely no money on packaging.

After opening the box, we removed the tiny tablet from the protective plastic sleeve and plugged the device in per the instructions (which were also almost non-existent) with the included charging cable. The cable, is longer than the iPad’s, but it’s still extremely short. There was also a flash card sized instruction card – which basically told us to plug the device in and where the power button was – beyond that, not much else was in the box.


Amazon’s package is simple and clean – but may disappoint those that want to wow the gift getter on Christmas morning.

With your purchase of the Kindle Fire, buyers also receive a free one-month trial for Amazon Prime (a $79 annual fee), Amazon’s streaming video service and free shipping on Amazon orders. If you’re already an Amazon customer or have considered becoming one, it’s a great way to test drive Prime.

The Hardware

For $200 the Kindle Fire stacks up pretty well against the iPad. Amazon’s 7.5 inch tablet full color tablet has full touch screen functionality – but there’s no camera or microphone. At 414 grams, it’s one of the lightest tablets out there, but still feels good in your hand. Pressing the power button on the end started the Kindle Fire up almost instantly.

The screen resolution is crisp and vibrant – that is when you’re reading books or viewing media in the HD format. The case has a black rubbery back (with the Kindle logo on it) and is both comfortable and easy to hold. The device has two speaker ports on the top for stereo sound, a micro USB port and a 3.5 mm audio jack too, but the device doesn’t come with headphones.

Overall it feels pretty substantial for such a small tablet – and that’s one of the problems. The Kindle Fire gets a bit heavy after using it for it while.

The OS & Web Browser
Amazon’s dual core processor makes accessing apps quick and easy. Even after loading it with apps the device was still responsive although doesn’t scroll as gracefully through the apps as Apple’s iPad. When the device changes screen orientation it just snaps to the new orientation, again without the animation or grace Apple’s iPad has. Web browsing is klunky – as other reviewers have also noted. When the Kindle Fire versus the iPad in these regards the Kindle Fire falls short.

In almost every case, games, books or movies, the display was better and more enjoyable when oriented vertically. Movies stream quickly from Amazon’s cloud and using Amazon’s proprietary Silk web browser – surfing the internet was ok, although the screen size makes web browsing incredibly difficult in the vertical orientation.


Apps are just 1 click away…Or are they?

Setting up the Kindle Fire 
Before you do anything, you’ll also have to set up a Amazon account, which is free. Remember, we bought a gift card so we could buy apps without giving Amazon a credit card. Unfortunately, Amazon REQUIRES you provide a credit card to access their digital content – even the free stuff. This is a huge fail for Amazon who are trying to go toe-to-toe with Apple. If you buy an iPad and an iTunes Gift Card you can use the gift card instantly – and without giving Apple a credit card.

Calls to Amazon’s customer service indicated that they’ve heard this complaint more than once, but the customer service experience was also laborious and time-consuming, not to mention just bad – and this issue was so annoying – we seriously considered returning the device. Equally frustrating and disappointing was that we couldn’t activate the gift card we bought (at the same time we purchased the Kindle Fire) through the device.

The Bottomline
For $200 the tablet is a great deal, especially when you factor in Amazon’s store, the incredible amount of content it offers and cloud support. We should also note, while Google Android Game Development has become more popular, there are very few HD Android apps, the regular Android apps work fine on the Kindle Fire, but even the best Kindle Fire apps like Monkey Preshool Lunchbox look blurry on the Kindle Fire screen.

It’s no iPad, not by a long shot, but it is a cheap, capable and study little tablet – if your gift getter hasn’t seen an iPad they won’t be disappointed.

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posted by Seamus Harte in App Development,News Blog and have No Comments

Best Kindle Fire Apps

Amazon’s Kindle Fire is a red hot item. At a $199 price point, Kindle Fire is giving the iPad a run for it’s money. But you know that already, that’s why you bought one, now it’s time to load it up with apps. having trouble deciding what to get? Don’t worry, we’ve got you covered.


Books, movies, magazines and games! Oh yes, the Kindle Fire has great games too.

When downloading apps for your Kindle Fire, remember you can download Android apps too, you don’t have to look just for Kindle Fire apps, however Kindle Fire or HD apps are going to be optimized for display on Android tablets, including Amazon’s new tablet, the Kindle Fire.

Hulu Plus
Price: $7.99 a month
Rating: 4 out of 5

While Amazon offers tons of video content on its own, Hulu, one of the most popular streaming services is having a coming out party on Kindle Fire. Hulu’s been around a while – their Kindle Fire app lets you watch your favorite television shows without paying per episode.


In Angry Birds, evil pigs have set up shop in a happy kingdom, wouldn’t that make you angry?

Angry Birds (Kindle Fire Edition)
Price: $4.99
Rating: 5 out of 5

Probably the world’s most popular app on any tablet, Angry Birds is a simple game that takes a lifetime to master. Hurl an angry bird into a pig fortress and try to do as much damage as possible. Sounds simple doesn’t it? It is, and incredibly addictive…You were warned.

Monkey Preschool Lunchbox
Price: $1.99
Rating: 5 out of 5

At some point that new Kindle Fire is going to be highjacked by your 5 year old, and then you’ll want to have some games loaded on it for them. And games with monkeys go right to the top of any list. Games with monkeys that teach your kids things probably rank even higher.

Monkey Preschool Lunchbox is one of the best preschooler apps, in it kids play match games, learn colors, shapes, numbers and more. Six different mini-games all change with gameplay. Kids collect stickers as rewards for completing the tasks.

Fruit Ninja
Price: $1.99
Rating: 5 out of 5

Who says you can’t play with your food? use your finger to slice and dice your way to victory. This casual game has three different modes: Classic, Arcade and Zen and countless numbers of levels. The premise? Slice the food that appears as quick as possible. Super additive


Pandora is the most popular free music streaming app in the world.

Pandora
Price: Free
Rating: 5 out of 5

Instant music for free right to your Kindle Fire? There is only one way: Pandora. Sure there are other apps out there that do the same thing, but Pandora is the king. Create your own radio stations, like Elvis? Create a station that serves up “The King” and artist that sound like him.

Guitar – Virtual Guitar Free
Price: Free
Rating: 4 out of 5

Until there’s the equivalent of GarageBand on the Kindle, individual music apps like this one will have to satisfy the rock star inside you. The app is easy to use, freely strum or choose from over a 100 available chords. You can combine the chords to create a song. You can save and share your songs, or just rock out with your Amazon Kindle Fire.

Make Your Own Apps
Maybe the app you’re looking for isn’t on this list. maybe you’ve got an idea for an app of your own? You can learn how to design and build games for the Android mobile platform or if you prefer, learn app development for iPhone and iPad. Mobile app development, like tablets, are the future of computing – and entertainment. People want to take it with them and why not, great devices like the Kindle Fire put the power in your hands.

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posted by Vince Matthews in App Development,News Blog and have No Comments

iPad 2: A Guide to the Must-Have Holiday Gift

There is a reason Apple sets the standard for product design. With intuitive design and lifestyle integration, getting your hands on their products for the first time makes you wonder how you ever lived life without one.


iPad 2 is THE must-have holiday gift of 2012. 

Maybe you already lead an Apple-filled life, or maybe you’re looking for a reason to start one? Either way, if you don’t own an iPad and are considering a tablet, the iPad 2 is a no-brainer.

The Give That Keeps On Giving
The iPad 2 comes with a dual-core A5 chip and 10-hour battery life – it’s thin, 0.34 inches and weighs less than 1 1/2 lbs. It’s literally ready to go anywhere. Plus, with App Store and iCloud support you can be sure anything you’re looking for can be found with it and anything you’re looking to hold onto will be kept safe in it.

Sure, there are plenty of tablets and mobile devices out there but the iPad 2 sets the standard; there’s more than one reason it sits atop of the Must-Have Holiday Gift list. All other tablets, app stores and apps are modeled after Apple’s innovations, so why settle for a cheap knock-off? This device is more than worth the money.

 Get Creative, Make Memories – with Apps!
The iPad 2′s dual-core A5 chip and graphic performance is 9x faster than the first iPad. This allows you to cruise through any app quickly and easily. Multi-Touch gestures are fluid and seamless – unlike other tablets that have clunky interfaces and delayed responses, on the iPad apps load faster than every, and multitasking is a breeze. Looking to get creative? Here are three iPad apps to make the most of your holiday memories:

iMovie
$14.99 / Apple

Apple and the iPad 2 have made it a reality for everyone to become an HD video director and at just $14.99 who can pass up that deal. This video editing app makes it easy to shoot, edit, and share HD video with all of your friends and family. Here are a few features that really set iMovie apart.


Capture those holiday moments and make memories using iMovie

Multi-Touch – Whether you are a seasoned video editor or someone learning for the first time, iPad’s Multi-Touch capabilities are incorporated into iMovie and allow you to tap, pinch, push, and drag your way through the video-editing process, allowing you to get hands on with your film using intuitive multi-touch gestures.

Themes – iMovie allow you to easily set the theme and tone of all your films with a fun-filled batch of pre-sets that give your production a top-end polish.

Photos, Music, and Sound Effects – iMovie also allows you to easily add media from your photo library or iTunes library to quickly create a multimedia project for the whole family to enjoy. And if you’re looking for ways to create your own music or more stunning graphic art, Sketchbook Pro and Garageband are two more apps to take your skills to the next level.

Sketchbook Pro
$4.99 / Autodesk

This professional-grade paint and drawing application is perfect for the professional artist on the go or the daydreaming doodler. Designed by Autodesk and developed exclusively for the iPad experience, you’ll be able to touch up photos from your library or conjure new ideas into brilliant images with this app.


With features found in products costing hundreds of dollars, Sketchbook Pro is Photoshop for iPad.

High Quality Brushes and Tools – With Sketchbook Pro you can pick from more than 60 preset brushes, pens, pencils and markers to make sure you have the right tool at your finger tips and the professional-grade paint engine built in ensures you get the smoothest and most precise brush strokes.

Multi-Touch Control – Sketchbook Pro takes advantage of iPad’s Multi-Touch capabilities to the max. A three-finger tap brings up a whole control panel and a two-finger zoom allows you to zoom 2500% and that’s not where it ends. Multi-Touch and Sketchbook let your creativity come out as quick as your fingers can move.

Layers – Layers in Sketchbook allow you to import images from your Photo Library or from your Camera to add a few touch ups or maybe make unique compositions. You can also export layers as a Photoshop document to share with a desktop or send to friends to add some touches.

Garageband
$4.99 / Apple

Want to become a music producer? Put a complete music studio in your hands with Apple’s Garageband. Using the built-in microphone you can record and produce a whole album right on your iPad.


Make real music – not just play along with colored buttons – using Apple’s amazing Garageband

Multi-Touch – Just like iMovie and Sketchbook Pro, Apple’s Garageband makes the most of the iPad 2′s Multi-Touch gesture capabilities while tapping out chords and melodies on the innovative Multi-Touch Keyboard.

Smart Instruments – Like having a group of studio musicians at your finger tips. Tap keyboard chords out with just one finger to find your groove or actually strum a rhythm out on an acoustic guitar. Looking to add some drums to that guitar riff? Use Smart Drums to just drag and drop until you find your beat.

Share It! – Once your mix is finished you can email it directly to your friends from Garageband or export directly to your iTunes.

Share Memories, Socially
Why wait to share your holiday memories? With the iPad 2 and a few powerful apps you can now share those magical moments instantly with friends and family that couldn’t make it to the party.


Bring your family closer together this holiday season using Facetime. 

Facetime for iPad - Have a brother that’s serving overseas or a sister studying in Australia? FaceTime allows you to stay connected with friends and family that couldn’t make it home this year. Facetime comes pre-loaded on the iPad, so all you have to do is click on the app to get started.

Two Cameras – Unlike some tablets, (like the Amazon Fire which has no camera) the iPad 2 features two cameras, one on the front and one on the back, to allow you to chat face to face or show people the world around you. Plus they’re HD so you can share every last detail.

Facebook for iPad and Twitter for iPad - The iPad 2 brings social sharing to a whole new level – with high-res photos, live status updates, games, chatting, and more when you combine your iPad 2 with Facebook or Twitter. Plus, Apple has made it even easier with built-in Twitter integration on Apple’s new iOS 5.

Save Memories with the iCloud
The iPad 2 has made it easier to than ever to make and share memories and now with iCloud it’s just as easy to make sure they are safe – wherever you go.

iTunes – With the iCloud you can have all of your digital media at your fingertips regardless of what device you originally downloaded it to. So if you bought Jingle Bells on your MacBook at home you can easily access it on your iPad while at grandmas and get everyone involved with a sing-a-long.

Photo Stream – With iCloud and the iPad 2 you can also use Photo Stream to access all of the pictures on any of your iDevices. Snap a photo on your iPad 2 after opening presents and know that it’ll show up on your MacBook at home. No more forgetting pictures.

No wonder the iPad 2 tops the list of every holiday shopping list. Is there nothing it can’t do? Thanks to app developers and a growing number of people who want to become an app developer.

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posted by Seamus Harte in App Development,News Blog and have No Comments

How to Make Your Own Apps using Twitter

Tired of just tweeting your status? Looking for an easy way to get your followers more involved with your Twitter feed? Then make your own Twitter apps. You can, and the process is easy using Bootstrap.


The DIY concept behind Bootstrap (a toolkit released by Twitter) enables developers to make or refine their own Twitter web apps.

Pulling Up Your Bootstraps
Bootstrap is a small set of tools that’s only approximately 6 KB. Though small in size, these are the same tools that Twitter developers use to create web pages and apps for the Twitter social network. Twitter released Bootstrap in August on the code-sharing website GitHub. In addition to using Bootstrap to make apps, it also has helped Twitter developers make Twitter’s operating code more consistent across its entire selection of apps.

At the center of Bootstrap is CSS, or Cascading Style Sheets (a programming language that regulates the appearance and functionality of a website or web app). Bootstrap lets developers define essential parts of web apps, including page templates, tables and forms, buttons, and navigation through the app and also covers style components (such as color palettes and typography). Bootstrap is considered an open source toolkit, which means that anybody is free to use Bootstrap and is even welcome to improve its functionality through added modifications (sometimes known as “forking”).


This little bird is doing a lot more these days than just updating his status.

Developing Apps Beyond Twitter
Twitter is the primary means of short, quick status updates – so it’s no wonder that more than 350 billion tweets are sent daily. Even more surprising is how we can condense our communications down to 140 characters.

If you’re interested in a career in technology or communications, a Twitter feed is as vital as an e-mail address. Bootstrap is a great place to start, but aspiring programmers and developers should look even further. Learning web development or how to build apps can be the key to your future. The first step though is professional training, and computer camps like Digital Media Academy can put you on a fast-track to a career. DMA offers hands-on instruction by industry professionals: experts in web design, app dev and more who share real-world experience in a pre-collegiate environment. Take, for example, DMA’s new program: Academy for Mobile Device Programming or the DMA Studios: App Development for iPhone & iPad. In both courses, students achieve basic mastery of app development and get a true taste of the industry. Creating the future has never been easier.

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posted by Phill Powell in App Development,News Blog and have No Comments

Facebook-to-Facebook Video Chat

Skype just updated its iPad and iPhone apps as well as its PC software to allow Facebook users to video chat directly with other Facebook users. Rick Osterloh, vice president of product at Skype, said in the Skype blog, ”We are on a mission to connect over one billion people and our continued partnership with Facebook brings us one step closer to this goal.” Check out the video:

Since July, when Facebook’s Mark Zuckerberg debuted “something awesome,” Skype has enabled Facebook video chat.  

The Personal Connection
If you’re one of the millions of people that can’t live without Facebook, you’ll be glad to see all your contacts instantly populate your Skype account with just a few keystrokes; all you need to do is sync your Skype and Facebook accounts. After that, your friends show up just like they do in Facebook. Video chats placed from Skype can be answered using either Skype or Facebook; it just depends on what service you’re logged into.

From Skype’s blog: “Initiating a Facebook-to-Facebook call from within Skype is easy; all you need to do is connect your Skype and Facebook accounts. Then, select a Facebook friend and hit the video call button in Skype- your friend simply picks up the call from Facebook. This new feature lets you maintain social connections with your Facebook friends and compliments previously announced features such as being able to see when your Facebook friends are online, read their status updates and IM them all from Skype.”


Video chat inside Facebook using Skype is just a few log-ins away.

The update also allows you to use Facebook Messenger for instant messaging from Skype to Facebook. “This new feature lets you maintain social connections with your Facebook friends and compliments previously announced features such as being able to see when your Facebook friends are online, read their status updates and IM them all from Skype,” Osterloh said.

Skype (which is owned by Microsoft) has been pushing the integration for a long time. In return for serving up the video-chat application, Microsoft’s Bing is used inside Facebook.

Apps and Chats
It’s hard to believe just a few years ago the world was going crazy over Instant Messaging. As a connected society, even though we still use IMs, we’re way beyond that now. Skype is a simple application but it enables free communication across the world,  provided you have a computer and an Internet connection. Building an app can be done alone or by working on an app-development team. But make no mistake:  it’s going to be apps like Skype that power the next generation of smartphones and tablet computers.

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posted by DMA Phill in App Development,News Blog and have No Comments

iPad 2 vs. Kindle Fire vs. Xoom & Others: A Tablet Buyers Guide

Entertaining the idea of getting (or giving) a tablet computer this holiday? Why not? Tablets like the iPad 2 will be the hottest hi-tech gift this holiday season. Tablets give you the world on a platter, compressing all the processing muscle of a laptop computer into a handy-dandy slate that you can hold in your hand — and which is light and portable enough to take anywhere.


Santa’s not the only one putting smiles on faces this Christmas; the iPad 2 will again light up the holiday.

The real question is which tablet computer is right for you? Apple’s iPad 2 is the market leader but other tablets have come along that solidly compete with it. It’s debatable if these contenders match the iPad’s grace and power. Still, these other devices may prove attractive to consumers since they are priced well below the iPad.

We’ve evaluated the leading tablets and have a side-by-side tablet-comparison chart below for your holiday shopping, but we’ve also listed our picks in order of preference:

1. iPad 2
 
Pros: Apple’s iPad 2 expands upon the original iPad in several ways. For starters, it has two cameras for FaceTime (video chat) and HD video recording. It’s powered by Apple’s dual-core A5 chip and features a 10-hour battery life. The latest iOS 5 adds more than 200 new software features. With the iPad 2 you also have access to Apple’s iCloud. Apple’s App Store showcases games and productivity. Apple has also added more apps (some 140,000 in all) to the store, making it the largest library of content for any tablet. It’s the market leader — and our top pick — for a reason. The interface is graceful, intuitive, easy to use and beautiful. If you’ve never owned an Apple product, this one will make you a lifelong fan.

Cons: The iPad 3 is scheduled for release next year.

Overall Dimensions: 9.50 inches (height) x 7.31 inches (width) x 0.34 inches (depth)
Weight: 1.33 pounds
Display: 9.7-inch diagonal LED-backlit glossy widescreen
Screen Resolution: 1024 x 768 pixels; 132 pixels per inch
Screen Display: Multi-Touch display with In-Plane Switching (IPS) technology. Screen treated with fingerprint-resistant oleophobic coating
Manufacturer: Apple, Inc.
MSRP: $499—$829

2. Kindle Fire

Pros: Incredibly compact (small enough to slip in a purse), the Kindle Fire is as small as its price. Enhanced with Amazon Silk, a “split browser” that divides the tablet’s web-browsing chores between the tablet and the Amazon Elastic Compute Cloud (Amazon EC2), the Kindle Fire boasts its own dual-core processor. And since it’s made by Amazon, it’s backed with an incredible amount of content,  including 18 million movies, TV shows, apps, games, songs, books, newspapers, magazines and more (with comics provided by DC Comics). The Kindle Fire offers 8 GB of internal storage; Amazon figures that’s enough for some 80 apps plus 10 movies or 800 songs or 6,000 books.

Cons: No camera for video chat or taking pictures.

Overall Dimensions: 7.50 inches (h) x 4.7 inches (w) x 0.45 inches (d)
Weight: 14.6 ounces
Display: 7-inch diagonal
Display Resolution: 1024 x 600 pixels; 169 pixels per inch
Display Screen: Multi-Touch display with IPS technology and anti-reflective treatment
Manufacturer: Amazon
MSRP: $199

3. Nook

Pros: When you’re the world’s largest bookstore, it’s assumed that content won’t be in short supply and Barnes & Noble estimates its book holdings at more than 2.5 million titles. And at 16 GB of internal memory, the Nook Tablet has twice as much storage as its closest competitor, the Kindle Fire. (We still like Kindle Fire’s resemblence to the iPad.) The Nook Tablet also contains a microSD card slot that offers extra storage, which is noticeably lacking in other tablets, like the iPad 2. Interested in the Nook Tablet for reading purposes? You’ll be happy to know the adjustable fonts customize your reading experience (eight text sizes and six font styles). In addition to what B&N calls the largest digital collection of newspapers and magazines, the Nook Tablet is the tablet home of Marvel Comics.

Cons: No camera for video chat or taking pictures. Interface is sometimes clunky.

Overall Dimensions: 8.1 inches (h) x 5.0 inches (w) x 0.48 inches (d)
Weight: 14.1 ounces
Display: 7-inch diagonal
Screen Resolution: 1024 x 600 pixels; 169 pixels per inch
Screen Display: VividView Touchscreen, fully laminated for remarkable clarity and reduced reflection and glare-read indoors or outside
Manufacturer: Barnes & Noble
MSRP: $249

4. TIE: Xoom / Galaxy Tab
Xoom

Pros: Sporting a hefty 10.1-inch display, the Xoom is able to take advantage of hundreds of thousands of apps from the Android Market. Through Google eBooks, the Xoom is able to draw upon a library that ups the ante at more than 3 million titles. To enable video-chat capabilities, the Xoom has front and rear-facing cameras. It’s powered by Google’s Android and has plenty of horsepower. A MicroSD card slot allows for addition storage or moving your media, and it performs more than adequately.

Cons: At 1.6 pounds it’s one of the heaviest tablets out there. Google’s operating system has stability issues and it has other issues like images displaying properly in the Gallery viewer. An added insult, almost all of the Android games in the Android app store aren’t optimized to run on the tablet. (FAIL!)

Overall Dimensions: 9.81 inches (h) x 6.61 inches (w) x 0.51 inches (d)
Weight: 1.6 pounds
Display: 10.1-inch diagonal
Screen Resolution: 1280 x 800 pixels; 150 pixels per inch
Manufacturer: Motorola
MSRP: $499

Galaxy Tab

Pros: Like the Xoom, the Galaxy Tab 10.1 also boasts a 10.1-inch diagonal screen. Samsung claims faster and more stable online connection thanks to the Galaxy Tab 10.1 having both HSPA+ and Wi-Fi access. Also on-board: front- and rear-facing cameras that support video chat functions. Also powered by the Android 3.1 (Honeycomb) platform, which Samsung claims allows quicker processing times because the platform excels at multi-tasking. And speaking of multi-tasking, the Mini Apps used with the Galaxy Tab 10.1 let you perform multiple key functions while working with other applications. It is one of the thinnest Honeycomb tablets available and it comes packaged with earbuds(!).

Cons: The App selection is subpar. During our tests, even with a full Wi-Fi signal the online video playback had issues.

Overall Dimensions: 7.48 inches (h) x 4.74 inches (w) x 0.47 inches (d)
Weight: 13.6 ounces
Display: 10.1-inch diagonal
Screen Resolution: 1024 x 600 pixels
Manufacturer: Samsung
MSRP: $499—$629

5. Kobo Vox

Pros: Love to read? The Kobo Vox has a library that exceeds 2.2 million books.The Kobo Vox is focused on the reading experience and Kobo claims a total library of more than 2.2 million books, as well as more than a million free titles. Magazine content is supplied via thousands of popular magazines from Zinio and newspapers from around the world. Kobo is marketing the Vox as a “free reader,” meaning that once you purchase a Kobo Books title, the user/owner can then enjoy it on any opened reading device. Should you need more external stimulation, the Vox offers unlimited web browsing and open access to Android 2.3, including more than 15,000 apps. It’s a new entry to the tablet world.

Cons: It’s a cheap alternative to the big boys by a relatively unknown tablet maker, which could make for technical-support nightmares. Kobo’s books are more expensive than Amazon’s.

Overall Dimensions: 7.57 inches (h) x 5.06 inches (w) x 0.53 inches (d)
Weight: 14.2 ounces
Display: 7-inch diagonal
Screen Resolution: 1024 x 600 pixels; 150 pixels per inch
Screen Display: Multi-touch screen optimized for reading outdoors. Features extra-wide viewing that its makers say is ideal for shared reading.
Manufacturer: Kobo, Inc.
MSRP: $199

Side-by-Side Comparison

Apps Make the Tablets
In the end, it comes down to two things: a good operating system and (just as important, if not more so) apps. Making apps for the iPad isn’t easy but it is fun. Creative app developers are really driving tablets. Ultimately, buyers should decide which applications or what they intend to do on the device first, then find the tablet that fits their needs.

Bottom line: If you already own Apple products, like the iPhone 4S, you will probably want to get the iPad, mainly because of the App Store, iTunes and iCloud support. If you prefer the Android operating system then the Xoom might be best for you. If you want a much cheaper tablet that kind of feels like an iPad,  then Amazon’s Kindle Fire is your best bet. Whatever you choose, one thing is for certain: you’ll most likely be giving or getting a tablet this holiday season.

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posted by Phill Powell in App Development,News Blog and have No Comments