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Amazon Updates Kindle App For The iPhone

When Amazon first released the Kindle App for the iPhone, people wondered whether it was the right decision to make. After all, the Kindle 2 was also released around the same time, and there was speculation that Amazon would be cannibalizing itself with its iPhone App. But after a few months, it seems that the opposite is happening.

Amazon actually gained a large user base when it opened its doors to the iPhone, and business has been great so far. While reading on the iPhone will never be better than reading on the Kindle, users have appreciated the fact that they can take their e-book libraries wherever they wanted to, without having to lug the large Kindle gadgets around.

Just recently, Amazon made certain upgrades on their Kindle book site (and of course the Kindle App itself) to make things a lot friendlier for iPhone users. It's now easier for iPhone users to browse through the book site and make purchases. But the biggest upgrades came with the Kindle App version 1.1.

Users can now read in landscape mode, which can be easier for some. There's also a "lock" button, which locks the view in portrait or landscape to avoid unnecessary rotations and such -- a feature that many other Apps on the App Store could use.

There are now also three color schemes for the text and background -- the standard white, black, and sepia -- that you can choose from depending on the lighting situation. The iPhone is backlit, so reading on it for long periods of time will undoubtedly cause some eyestrain. But switch to the low-contrast "sepia" setting, and reading on the iPhone suddenly feels easier.

Of course, upgrades are always good -- but for me and many other iPhone enthusiasts in other parts of the world, the question remains. When will these Apps, which are obviously the most popular of them all, be available to a worldwide audience?

Amazon pretty much has its hands tied at the moment, since its USA market is already a handful to satisfy. But to have Kindle and its iPhone App versions available to Asia and other parts of the world -- that would spell the final demise for Palm.

Speaking of Palm, I received some news about the Pre's release this June 6. It turns out the much-vilified $100 rebates won't have to be mailed-in, but instead it will be effected at the point of purchase. This will make buying Pre much less of a hassle for buyers, and may actually rope in those who are on the fence about making the Pre their smartphone.

A bit of rare good news from a company struggling to survive.

Pre To Debut Next Month, Holding Palm's Future In Its, Well, Palm

After a long wait, the highly-anticipated debut of Palm's smartphone, the Pre, is finally set just around the corner. The Pre is set to be released on June 6, putting to end the long waiting game that Palm's fans have had to endure. But even when people are saving the date, the Pre's release is still shrouded with skepticism and doubt.

We all know the procrastination that led to Palm's downfall in recent years. Only three years ago, Palm's operating system enjoyed 40% of the market share, and Blackberry at only 28%. But just this year, their share had dropped to 10% as Blackberry's rapidly-evolving OS took the lead. Palm even fell behind Apple, whose OS now enjoys over twice Palm's market share.

I remember writing about the Palm Pre months ago, and the news that Palm is only releasing it now is enough to make me shake my head -- will this procrastination lead to Palm's final demise? This remains to be seen, as Palm's execs themselves have expressed that the company's future depends on the success of the Pre.

Bleak forecasts notwithstanding, it's still questionable whether the Pre will make a splash anywhere near as big as the one the iPhone 3G made. For instance, everyone was hoping the Pre would at least match the iPhone's $199 price tag. The Pre WILL be sold at $199.99, but only after a $100 rebate. And does everyone really avail of rebates? Exactly.

And the question bears repeating: What took them so long?

The Pre is pretty much like most other smartphones out in the market today -- it's touchscreen, sleek, and has a slide-out QWERTY keyboard. Its only edge over other smartphones is Palm's new operating system, WebOS. This OS is particularly what will make or break the Pre.

WebOS's major selling point is that it lets users multitask -- that is, users can leave applications open while opening another. This is one of the iPhone's major drawbacks, and the Pre will supposedly capitalize on it.

With rumors of Apple developing the same kind of background App support in the next iPhone firmware upgrade, Pre might be in a world of hurt. At this point, I think Palm fans are simply glad that the Pre won't hit store shelves any later than it will.

Will iPhone 3G Finally Get Background App Support?

It seems that while Apple's iPhone 3G is still the smartphone to beat, it's also very quickly losing to smartphones offering more processing power, better secondary features, and open-source platforms. But Apple's rumor mill is ever-churning, and rumor has it that Apple is currently developing background app support for its iPhone 3.0 firmware upgrade, which will come a few months from now.

What does this mean for iPhone users? Simply the fact that they can now keep two or more Apps running in the background -- something that many other smartphones in the market today have let their users do for a while. Apple, on the other hand, hasn't been that keen about letting users run more than a few Apps at a time, for fears of compromising battery life or security.

Of course, users had to grudgingly deal with that limitation. After all, who wouldn't like to have an IM program running in the background of their iPhone?

This upgrade may extend the iPhone's dominance over the iPhone market by a little, but may not do so for long. As I've said, other smartphone manufacturers are slowly but steadily getting used to the way Apple does things, and are now coming up with features that Apple's iPhone has been slow in offering. Apple will definitely need a new game-breaking upgrade to stay on top of the smartphone market, and while background App support is a step in the right direction, it's just a step.

This upgrade is more of a hurdle than we may think -- perhaps the reason why Apple didn't include background App support in the previous iPhone firmwares may be because it CAN'T. The iPhone's RAM capacity is only 128 MB, and there's only so much you can do on 128 MB. Playing music and a video game App at the same time can cause massive slowdowns on an iPhone already.

The fact remains, though -- Apple has to find a way to let their users run multiple Apps on their devices, without relying on a clunky, unreliable "Task Manager." The question is whether the iPhone 3G will be the device to see this feature.

Is Apple Out To Buy EA and Twitter?

Rumors are buzzing about Apple planning to buy the struggling gaming publisher Electronic Arts and the popular micro-blogging utility Twitter. I can speak volumes about how I doubt Apple is going to stay on top of its game for long, or how its disdain for open-source will be its downfall, but the fact remains -- when Apple talks, people listen.

Apple-related rumors are always the juiciest and most prolific ones to circulate the blogosphere simply because Apple's innovations have all been massive industry shakers and game changers in the past. This time, rumors have it that Apple is on the way to plant its popular logo in the gaming and micro-blogging industries. How true can these be?

Knowing Apple and its relatively successful 2009 Q1 returns, it certainly CAN buy a huge chunk of Electronic Arts if it wanted to. Similarly, they can also very easily afford the rumored $700 million price tag for Twitter. The only question is perhaps whether or not it WOULD.

The EA rumor seems rather unrealistic, since Apple already has the platforms that various publishers and developers already actively develop games for. The only reason it would buy a chunk of EA would probably be to give the gaming publisher a bit of leverage -- EA has struggled with relatively lower sales figures over the past two quarters. So a deal of some sort MIGHT be in the works, but a majority-stake buyout seems very unlikely.

Unless of course Steve Jobs likes having The Sims on his iPhone so much. I mean, we all know when The Steve loves something the whole world stops to listen, stocks in the financial markets get suspended, and whale mating season begins. Now moving on to Twitter:

They've said time and time again that Twitter isn't for sale, but for goodness sakes -- you'll need to monetize this thing if you want it to stick around! Simply putting ads on Twitter pages will easily generate millions. But even that recourse would pale in comparison to what an Apple logo can do.

Here's what I think will happen if Twitter DOES become "iTweet" down the line:

  • Twitter will enjoy a new, established user base.
  • Apple will have a new major selling point for the iPhone. (native iTweet capabilities... aherrmmm)
  • Perhaps instead of depending on online ad revenue, Apple might make Twitter part of the .Mac/MobileMe service (Yikes! You mean now I gotta' pay to tweet? Arrckk!).
  • Apple might tap Twitter's real-time news result capabilities and establish a new search engine that can leave Google and its spiders at least two to five hours behind.
  • The image of the Twitter bird pulling a worm out of the Apple logo. (iLOL.)

That said, it would be pretty interesting to see which one of the big names will be the first to leverage Twitter. It doesn't have to be Apple, but if you ask me, I can however (with mild hesitation) tell you that Steve Jobs' company currently has the most capable hands in the world today.

Dell's Smartphone Goes Back To Drawing Board

Image credit: Found on

It's been a while since I've seen Dell making a splash in the market. They were pretty much making it a few years ago with their Axim series, back when handheld PC's and PDA's were still the rage. Now that the market is making a rapid switch to smartphones, they recently came up with their own prototypes – only to be unceremoniously rejected by all the major carriers. The reason? Their smartphones were too dull.

Apparently Dell's prototypes didn't have anything new or original enough to set it apart from all the other smartphones flooding into the already-tight market. This has sent Dell back to the drawing boards, but don't count it out yet – the smartphone market is going to keep growing for several more years, and Dell seems determined to get its share.

This episode has unfortunately cast a bad spotlight on Dell. The blogosphere has had a field day on the recent rejection. While Apple, Google, Palm, and everyone else is out to snag the “smartphone” synonym, the word “Dell-like” has won the “boring” synonym almost overnight, thanks to some very ballsy bloggers and reporters. (And here I thought Windows Mobile was going to win that dubious award first, but it'll have to be happy with “WinCE,” I suppose...)

Of course, with all the negative publicity, coming up with a smartphone that's actually good might catapult it into popularity soon.

This story struck me as ironic, because I was just writing about the endless “form vs. function” debate with regards to design. Yesterday I wrote about the departure of Google Lead Designer Douglas Bowman, whose criticism of Google's data-centric design culture led to a healthy discussion between form advocates and function hardliners.

In my last article, I implied that it's also important to strike a balance between usability and form factor, unless of course your company depends on either extreme as your brand identity. What I probably failed to mention is that while there are billions of gray areas in between those two extremes, it's important to find a shade of gray that's totally and exclusively your own. I guess Dell encroached in too many gray areas that Nokia, Palm, and the other smartphone developers already had covered.

So what should it do now? I think Dell needs to come up with something truly original. At this point, making their next prototype considerably more interesting should already be a giant leap forward.

Apple Makes The iPhone Even More Useful

There's no doubt that Apple's iPhone 3G is the most flexible smartphone in the market today, both for consumers and software developers. Today, Apple announced new improvements in its software architecture – let's call it iPhone 3.0 – and iPhone users everywhere will be thrilled to know they can finally copy and paste on the darned thing.

Can Today's Mobile Devices Coexist?

I've a fair bit about how those little Netbooks (or ultraportables, or MID's – Mobile Internet Devices – or whatever you want to call them) have been grabbing a good chunk of market share from traditional desktop PC's and laptops these days. We also know how smartphones are slowly but steadily edging mobile phones off the market scene. But can these mobile devices really coexist with each other?

Apple's New iPod Shuffle Not For Stubby Fingers

Some like to say Apple's preference for minimalistic designs came from its disdain of rival Microsoft, which is (in)famous for its cluttered designs, wordy instructions, and sponsor-loaded packaging. But seriously, though, with the new iPod Shuffle hitting shelves all over the world, I tend to wonder just how far Apple plans to go with the minimalistic thing.

Amazon's Kindle Makes It To iPhone

Steve Jobs once (in)famously said that Apple had no plans to turn the iPhone 3G into an e-book reader, since, quote, “Nobody reads anymore.” That's why the iPhone caught my attention when an App for Amazon's Kindle became available just a few days ago. Besides being another instance of Apple contradicting itself, is Amazon trying to compete against itself?

Microsoft To Go Into Retail


Image credit: Found on - Link -

Last week I wrote about how Microsoft was planning to come up with its own “App Store,” in addition to a more sophisticated version of its Windows Mobile OS, to tout itself in this week's Mobile World Congress. For most people, it's obviously a move to reclaim market share from its chief rival Apple. Deny as Microsoft might, their next move – going into retail – tells me just how worried the dudes at MS are about Steve Jobs and his gang.