Sony phasing out feature phones, banking on Smartphones

Now that Sony completely owns the Sony Ericsson phone company it has decided to start phasing out feature phones. This means that Sony will most likely be basing its future on the Android operating system.

Hot on the heels of the announcement of Sony buying out Ericsson to own the phone company outright Sony makes a bombshell announcement. Howard Stringer, Sony’s president and CEO, said today “We’re phasing out feature phones.” Stringer has yet to outline exactly how quickly the phasing out process will take.

With smartphone prices dropping every day it seems as though it’s only a matter of time until every phone on the market will be a smartphone. The price issue that comes into play would be the monthly service fee, which we are sure not everyone is willing to pay. We are curious about if or when other large cell phone manufacturers will follow suit.

One hurdle that Sony might be facing is the never ending patent lawsuits surrounding Android smartphones. As of right now all of Sony Ericsson smartphones run Android, so basically Sony’s move today is banking on Google’s OS. With Apple’s latest patent for unlocking touchscreens Android phone makers have to be losing some sleep over the possible ramifications.

It is doubtful that Sony will be making its own operating system, so that only leaves three options for Sony.

1.) It can stick solely on Android and hope for the best.

2.) It can branch out to make a Windows Phone 7 devices in addition to Android.

3.) It can blow everyone’s minds and buy webOS from HP.

Most likely it will stick solely with Android, but it is always fun to guess what might happen.  How soon will HTC or Motorola follow Sony’s lead and phase out feature phones?

Netflix now takes up nearly a third of all Internet bandwidth in North America

While Netflix's recent management missteps have caused the stock to take a massive beating over the last few months, this hasn't stopped more Netflix users from streaming television shows and movies over the Internet.

According to Sandvine’s Fall 2011 Global Internet Phenomena Report, Netflix now makes up 32.7 percent of all Internet traffic in North America and has become the most powerful driver of traffic during the evening. This report analyzes approximately 200 Internet service providers in 80 different countries. Across all countries, real-time entertainment applications make up 60 percent of peak downstream traffic, an increase from 50 percent in 2010. Hardware in the entertainment traffic category include smartphones, tablets, set-top boxes, game consoles like the Xbox 360 and smart televisions. Entertainment hardware dominates the laptop and desktop PC category which only makes up about 45 percent of all Internet traffic.

netflix-streaming-demoVideo makes up over 32 percent of all peak downstream mobile traffic and the largest contributor to that group is YouTube. Web surfing is in second place at a bit over 16 percent of peak period aggregate traffic and peer-to-peer file sharing is also in second place for daily aggregate traffic. Peak network traffic is typically at maximum levels between 8 to 11 p.m. each evening. Other sources that contribute to traffic at peak times includes real-time communication, gaming, secure tunneling and social networking.

Netflix subscribers are watching real-time entertainment on multiple screens over the same network as well. Data usage rises based on the size of the screen. For instance, people watching on a 55″ HDTV are more likely to opt for a higher quality video stream with similar quality on the multi-channel audio stream. The report also raises the possibility that Netflix traffic has peaked as of Fall 2011 due to the recent developments with Netflix’s loss of 800,000 subscribers. Assuming the subscriber base continues to fall over the fourth quarter, Netflix will be forced to rely on supplying streaming content to emerging foreign markets to continue the growth of Netflix’s dominance of Internet traffic.

Samsung knocks Apple off top spot to become world’s biggest smartphone seller

Samsung has overtaken Apple to become the world's biggest smartphone seller, helped by healthy sales of its Galaxy smartphones - a range which happens to be at the center of a legal dispute between the two companies.

Thanks in part to strong sales of its Android-operated Galaxy S II handset, Samsung has passed Apple to become the world’s biggest seller of smartphones.

The Korean company also released figures for the third quarter on Friday, which showed a record profit generated by smartphone sales.

According to data from Strategy Analytics, Samsung took 23.8 percent of the smartphone market with 27.8 million shipments compared to Apple’s 14.6 percent with 17.1 million shipments.

This will of course come as good news for the Asian electronics giant, what with all the patent-based legal wrangling it’s currently experiencing with rival Apple. At the same time though, it’ll no doubt reinforce the Cupertino company’s determination to press on with its legal action to try to prevent the sale of many of Samsung’s devices, such as its Galaxy tablets and smartphones.

In an email statement, Strategy Analytics said of the figures, “Samsung’s rise has been driven by a blend of elegant hardware designs, popular Android services, memorable sub-brands and extensive global distribution.”

With early sales of Apple’s new iPhone 4S looking more than promising, Samsung’s time at the top could be short lived. Apple will be buoyed by news that, following the lengthy service outage suffered by BlackBerry users recently, 64 percent of those considering switching to another handset said they would opt for an iPhone.

Though Samsung showed strong growth in sales of its smartphones in the third quarter, the state of its chip business was less straightforward. Profit from sales of its computer memory chips were low compared to a year earlier, though revenue generated from sales of processor chips for smartphones and tablets was strong. And to whom is it selling many of its processor chips? Why, Apple of course. Some may see the battle with Apple as a win-win situation for Samsung, with the iPhone and iPad both incorporating its components.

The Korean company was upbeat about the immediate future. “Looking ahead into the fourth quarter – when industry demand is traditionally at its peak – Samsung expects sales of mobile devices to remain strong and flat panel TV shipments to increase,” the company said in its earnings statement.

Apple ‘iTV’ rumors abound: iTunes creator leading development, 2013 release

The hot new thing on the Apple rumor mill is a Cupertino-designed television, christened by Steve Jobs himself, which could -- maybe, possibly, fingers-crossed -- hit stores in 2013.

Apple is making a television – at least, that’s what it would seem, judging by the flurry of news about the newest mythical iDevice that has bombarded the tech news world over the past 24 hours. If the rumors are correct, however, the living room could become the latest dominion to be conquered by the Kings of Cupertino.

The latest news out this morning is that Jeff Robin, who played a pivotal role in the creation of the iPod and iTunes, is leading Apple’s development of a television, according to an unnamed source who spoke with Bloomberg‘s Adam Satariano. Two additional unnamed sources also contributed to the details of Satariano’s report.

Of course, we find it increasingly difficult to believe any Apple rumors based upon anonymous hearsay alone. And then there’s the fact that we’ve heard about all of this in the past, without ever seeing such a device come to market. This time, however, we do have a bit of trustworthy corroboration that more or less proves Apple has a TV in the works, and that it is more than just an internal prototype that will never enjoy a stint on a Best Buy shelf: Steve Jobs confirmed it.

According to the newly released Jobs biography by Walter Isaacson, Steve Jobs told Isaacson that he had finally solved to TV set conundrum, and that it would be – you guessed it – revolutionary.

“He very much wanted to do for television sets what he had done for computers, music players, and phones,” writes Isaacson. “’I'd like to create an integrated television set that is completely easy to use,’ he told me. ‘It would be seamlessly synced with all of your devices and with iCloud.’ No longer would users have to fiddle with complex remotes for DVD players and cable channels. ‘It will have the simplest user interface you could imagine. I finally cracked it.’”

Piper Jaffray analyst Gene Munster says that Apple currently has a prototype, and may bring the television to market sometime in 2013, based upon conversations he’s had with Apple’s Asian suppliers.

We could literally spend hours guessing what kind of already-existing Apple features – things like Siri and iCloud – might make their way into an iTV, and how that would potentially change the television industry as a whole. But for the sake of good ol’ fashioned skepticism, we’ll leave the speculation to the analysts, this time around.

We are interested, however, in what you think about a potential Apple TV set. Can Cupertino do it right this time? Would you buy one, even if it costs and arm and a leg to get it?

Nokia Lumia 800 Could Be the Best Windows Phone Yet

Nokia Lumia 800, the company’s flagship Windows Phone device, has been officially launched at the Nokia World conference in London today.
However, I had a chance to spend a little bit of time with the Lumia 800 prior to the launch. Not enough time to write a review–I can’t speak to the call quality or battery life — but I can say that it felt great in my hand, had a gorgeous screen and a truly winning form factor.

f any company matches Apple when it comes to industrial design for their mobile phones, it’s Nokia. Nokia might not have the same panache or flair for crafting beautiful looking devices, but the company certainly thinks about every little detail.

I’ve been told that Nokia really goes the extra mile when it comes to crafting its handsets. The polycarbonate shells for phones aren’t simply sprayed with paint on the exterior. The whole of the material is dyed so that if scratched, the phone maintains its color. Nokia even tests various lotions creams against the materials it uses to make sure that the exterior of its devices won’t stain.

This precision and attention to detail was made clear in a recent video showing off how the N9 is made. The N9, Nokia’s first and last MeeGo phone, was unveiled in June. Although doomed from the start because of Nokia’s decision to partner with Microsoft and focus on creating Windows Phone devices, the device is beautiful.

Fortunately, all of that hard work and engineering hasn’t gone to waste. The new Lumia 800 takes the N9 design, adds a dedicated camera button and replaces MeeGo with Mango (Windows Phone 7.5).
The Feel

The first thing that struck me about the Lumia 800 was how it felt in my hand. It was light, yet it didn’t feel insubstantial. It seemed to weigh less than my iPhone, but unlike some other devices, it didn’t feel of lesser quality.

Likewise, the shape of the device was very well thought out. The sides of the device are curved, but the top and bottom taper and become flat.

The screen, which I’ll discuss in more detail below, is curved to the design but done so in such a way that it looks and feels as if it is all one single piece of material.
The Screen

The pixel density may not match what Apple is offering in the iPhone 4/4S, but the screen that Nokia is using for the Lumia 800 is a thing of beauty.

Using Nokia’s own version of Super AMOLED Plus, the blacks were black, the colors vibrant and text a joy to read.

Beyond that, the feel of the screen itself was smooth and responsive. The curve of the glass fit so nicely with the fit of the phone that it just felt right in a way that the curved glass of the Nexus S just didn’t feel right to me.

I didn’t have a chance to use the camera other than to load up the software — but the Carl Zeiss optics have a good track record in past Nokia phones.

Nokia has always put lots of efforts into its camera optics and if the Lumia 800 is as good as the N9, users are in for a treat.

When I got to handle the Lumia 800, I did so alongside a number of other Windows Phone devices. Some of these have been announced and some are still prototypes. With Windows Phone, Microsoft has given manufacturers a minimum set of requirements that must be matched.
Phone makers, at their own discretion, can tweak things like the size of the screen, the power of the camera and the speed of the processor. I think this is a smart approach because it ensures that each phone will maintain a minimum set of requirements, but still lets phone makers switch things up to differentiate themselves from the rest of the market.
Despite seeing a lot of nice looking phones from all ends of the market, the Lumia 800 was clearly the best looking, best-feeling and most-promising phone of the bunch.
To Microsoft’s credit, on the software side, it seemed just as quick and responsive as any other phone running Mango. Microsoft is still in the early stages with Windows Phone. The full push to Mango took place earlier this month and users are giving it solid marks.
Having spent some time with Windows Phone on and off over the past year, I like the OS. I’ll be blunt, I’m an iOS user and I don’t see that changing any time in the near future. Having said that, I’ve long-maintained that Windows Phone would be my second choice for a mobile OS. That was before the release of Mango and before the Lumia 800. The time I’ve spent with Mango in the last few weeks has impressed me.
Microsoft is doing some interesting stuff with voice search that is similar to what Apple is doing with Siri. The Microsoft voice recognition isn’t as good, as the types of functions and activities that can be controlled with search aren’t as well defined. Still, it’s clear Microsoft is thinking about approaching navigation, discovery and mobile search in new and unique ways.
Microsoft has done something really special on the software side that allows users to pin certain functions of an application — like just the voice reminder function of Evernote — to a home screen. In short, the software that Microsoft has been building is great. What the company has needed, however, is flagship hardware.
As nice as some of the other Windows Phones are — and they are nice — nothing before the Lumia 800 really stood out against the smartphone competition. That’s changed.

Nokia Shows Off Flexible Mobile Device of the Future

Look what Nokia has done with this mobile gadget — Nokia calls it a “kinetic device,” a prototype with a flexible display the company showed at Nokia World 2011 in London.

Instead of the pinch-to-zoom capabilities copied throughout the smartphone industry, Nokia has come up with a novel way to accomplish the same thing: When you bend and twist this handset, the image on its screen does your bidding in a highly intuitive way.

One of the advantages Nokia touts for such a device is the ability to use it without looking at it — for instance, twisting it in your pocket to dismiss a call or change song on a music player.

How does it work? According to CNET, a Nokia demonstrator said the company was experimenting with bundles of carbon nanotubes whose electrical properties change when they’re stretched. Those nanotubes are embedded in a flexible substance that allows the device to control the screen when twisted and bent. An additional advantage: The device is much tougher — and is water resistant, too.

We’ve heard of displays that might be capable of folding like a newspaper and rolled up like a tube, but the idea of controlling by bending is different. Imagine the possibilities: Perhaps it could be used by blind people, where the bending properties of the device would not require vision to intuitively control a smartphone.

When will we see such a thing in the real world? Nokia’s not saying precisely when its kinetic device will be released, but one rep tells IntoMobile in the video embedded below, “hopefully soon.”

How Google Could Bring iTunes To Its Knees

According to multiple sources, including Android boss Andy Rubin, Google's full-blown, socially integrated music store is very close to launch. Mobiledia reports that users will be able to share songs with members of their Google+ circles, who will then be able to listen once for free before deciding whether or not they want to purchase.

Google Music will likely be an extension of the cloud-based music storage service Music Beta, which Google launched five months ago to mixed reviews.

The Music Beta site, currently accessible by invitation only, has been criticized for being slow, difficult to use, and for looking "thrown together." It has also been the main reason that several major labels refuse to be connected with Google's potentially grand plans for a larger Google Music service.

While record companies would like nothing more than an alternative to iTunes, Google has only acquired a signed license agreement from one of the four major record labels: EMI.

While Universal is also tentatively on board, The Wall Street Journal reported on Monday that Sony Music Entertainment or Warner Music Group are unlikely to join. "Sony execs [...] worry that the online locker could appear to be a tacit endorsement of piracy, because it would work equally for pirated songs and purchased ones," reports the Journal. Apple charges $25 a year for its iCloud storage service, announced in June.

However, sources who spoke with The Wall Street Journal, say that Google plans to launch the music store with or without the participation of Warner and Sony. Mobiledia writes that this is a risky move, because if users can't find the songs they're looking for, they are likely to go elsewhere for music.

In April, All Things Digital reported that after spending a year working on a music store, Google's talks with the record labels were "broken." In the same article, ATD speculated that Google might follow in Amazon's footsteps and launch a cloud-based music storage system without permission from the labels. Which is what Google did indeed end up doing in May.

But if the performance of Amazon's service is any indication, Google Music will certainly have its work cut out for it. According to the L.A. Times, Amazon's music store only commands 10 percent of the digital music download market whereas Apple has 70 percent. In April, the online retailer, whose songs were already cheaper than Apple's, lowered prices even further in an effort to unseat the music behemoth. However, according to a digital music analyst consulted by the the L.A. Times, it didn't work.

New social network Unthink says ‘FU’ to Facebook and Google+

Dubbed the "anti-Facebook," newly launched social network Unthink aims to free users from the bonds of corporate money-making by giving them complete control over their personal data.
There’s a new social network in town, and it bills itself as everything Facebook’s not., which opened up registration today for an initial round of beta users, says it is the “anti-Facebook,” and vows to give users complete control over their personal data.
Unthink, which is based in Tampa, Florida, came out swinging, with a manifesto that vows to “emancipate social media,” along with a promotional video that literally says “FU” to Facebook and Google+ for making money by “spying – yes, spying” on users and bombarding users with ads, among other grievances.
According to Unthink chief executive Natasha Dedis, the idea for a new kind of social network came to her in 2007, when her son asked to join Facebook. After reading Facebook’s terms and conditions, as well as the terms of MySpace (which reigned king of social media at the time), Dedis said in an interview with SixEstate that she realized that these companies were operating under a business logic that was “totally irrational and exploitative.”
“…I felt that they were basically taking my son hostage,” said Dedis. “He was giving them a perpetual license to do whatever they wanted, they could change the terms at any time. So I thought, ‘Oh my god, in the real world, no business could ask its clients to enter into such a legal relationship. So how is this even legal on the Web?’ It just baffled me.”
Unthink attempts to tackle the exploitation problem in a number of different ways. First, Unthink makes all user data private by default. Users may then allow others to see the information they want public, and keep private anything they want private. Next, Unthink doesn’t sell user data to companies. Instead, users can choose to have specific brands “sponsor” their pages. Any users who don’t want corporate sponsorship can pay a $2-a-year fee to use the service. In addition, Unthink users may choose how brands communicate with them via a section that’s totally separate from their regular information stream.
As we see it, Unthink faces an inconceivably difficult uphill battle against Facebook and Google+. At the same time, however, Unthink’s servers are, at the time of this writing, completely overwhelmed by the bombardment of traffic headed to the site today. While some may see that as evidence that the company is unprepared for the big leagues, it at least shows that people are interested in a Facebook alternative – something we saw in droves with the launch of Google+.
We’ll definitely be exploring Unthink more in the coming days. In the mean time, check out Unthink’s in-your-face promo video, and let us know what you think of, er, Unthink:

Apple plans to build solar farm beside North Carolina data center

It looks as if the land cleared beside Apple's $1 billion data center in North Carolina will be used to build a solar farm to help power the new facility.

After buying and clearing 171 acres of land next to its gargantuan soon-to-begin-operations data center in Maiden, North Carolina, it looks as if Apple is about to build a solar farm on it.

The reason for Apple’s purchase of the extra land had been something of a mystery until the Charlotte Observer came across engineering plans entitled Project Dolphin Solar Farm A Expanded. The Observer points out that Project Dolphin was the code name used by the Cupertino company for the data center.

Confirmation about the construction of a solar farm is expected once the computer giant applies for a building permit. Permits recently issued by Catawba County show that Apple has been granted permission to reshape the slope of part of the vacant land beside the data center – thought to be in preparation for the construction of the solar farm.

A data center the size of Apple’s facility in Maiden – which covers around 180 acres – will no doubt need a fair bit of power to keep it ticking over. The Observer reports that using renewable energy would fit with Apple’s apparent interest in this kind of power, with plants in Austin, Texas, and Cork, Ireland, already powered entirely by renewable energy.

The new data center is thought to have cost somewhere in the region of $1 billion to build and should bring 300 new jobs to the area.

Apple hasn’t publicly stated what the data center will be used for, although its recent launch of cloud-based services doesn’t leave too much to the imagination

Siri Co-Founder Quits Apple

Dag Kittlaus, the co-founder and CEO of Siri, whose voice control feature Apple launched to much acclaim recently, left the company, according to sources.

There were several reasons for the departure, which was amicable and was planned for a while, sources said. They included Kittlaus' family being in Chicago, a desire to take time off and an interest in brainstorming new entrepreneurial ideas, AllThingsD reported.

Kittlaus has led the speech recognition efforts for Apple since it bought Siri in April of 2010. He had been Siri's CEO since 2007. Before that, the Norwegian-born Kittlaus was an entrepreneur in residence at the Stanford Research Institute and also worked at Motorola.

Kittlaus apparently left after the launch of Siri, but sources said other key Siri execs were expected to remain at Apple.

Apple did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

The Steve Jobs Reading List: The Books And Artists That Made The Man

"I like living at the intersection of the humanities and technology," Steve Jobs said once.

LSD, Bauhaus and Zen Buddhism shaped Apple's pioneering products as much as anything that took place on the assembly lines. They were among Jobs' greatest influences and they shaped his attitudes toward design, business and innovation.

The books Jobs read, particularly as a teen and college student, helped expose him to the ideas and experiences that would serve as Apple's foundation years later.

Walter Isaacson's 571-page biography of Jobs, a copy of which was purchased by The Huffington Post, provides an unprecedented look at the texts -- by writers ranging from William Shakespeare to Paramahansa Yogananda -- that influenced Jobs; "required reading" for anyone seeking a deeper understanding of the visionary.

Less than a handful of the texts Isaacson mentions directly concern technology: one is Clayton Christensen's "The Innovator's Dilemma," which Isaacson writes, "deeply influenced" Jobs, and the other is Ron Rosenbaum's 1971 Esquire article "Secrets of the Little Blue Box," a profile of hackers who could tap into phone networks that later gave rise to Jobs’ first collaboration with Steve Wozniak, who went on to become Apple's co-founder.

Jobs' interest in literature and the arts burgeoned during his junior and senior years of high school, which coincided with his first drug use. Jobs tried marijuana at 15 and before graduating high school began experimenting with LSD. (He later observed, "Taking LSD was a profound experience, one of the most important things in my life," he said.)

"I started to listen to music a whole lot, and I started to read more outside of just science and technology -- Shakespeare, Plato. I loved King Lear," Jobs recalled of his teen years. Isaacson notes that "Moby-Dick" and Dylan Thomas' poetry were among Jobs' favorite works at this point in his life.

During his freshman year at Reed College, Jobs befriended Daniel Kottke, who went on to work at Apple, and together they devoured books such as Shunryu Suzuki's "Zen Mind, Beginner's Mind," Chogyam Trungpa's "Cutting Through Spiritual Materialism" and Paramahansa Yogananda's "Autobiography of a Yogi," a book Jobs read and re-read many times during his life.

Isaacson writes,

    Jobs found himself deeply influenced by a variety of books on spirituality and enlightenment, most notably Be Here Now, a guide to meditation and the wonders of psychedelic drugs by Baba Ram Dass, born Richard Alpert.

    "It was profound," Jobs said. "It transformed me and many of my friends."

Throughout his life, Jobs embraced numerous extreme, even obsessive, dietary regimes. He fasted periodically and, at various points, was a vegetarian, vegan and fruitarian, though he made an exception for unagi sushi while in Japan. This attitude toward food began to take shape in college after Jobs read "Diet for a Small Planet" by Frances Moore Lappe in his first year at Reed.

"That's when I swore off meat pretty much for good," Jobs told Isaacson, who adds Jobs became "even more obsessive" about food after reading Arnold Ehret's "Mucusless Diet Healing System."

One book in particular stayed with Jobs his entire life, and Isaacson noted that it was the only book Jobs had downloaded on his iPad 2: "Autobiography of a Yogi," "the guide to meditation and spirituality that he had first read as a teenager," Isaacson writes, "then re-read in India and had read once a year ever since."

Yet no discussion of the artists who influenced Jobs is complete without mentioning the music that made the man.

Jobs called Bob Dylan "one of my heroes" and had over a dozen Dylan albums on his iPod, along with songs from seven different Beatles albums, six Rolling Stones albums and four albums by Jobs' onetime lover Joan Baez.

Jobs likened The Beatles' creative process to Apple's own. While listening to a bootleg CD from one of the band's recording sessions, Jobs remarked, "They did a bundle of work between each of these recordings. They kept sending it back to make it closer to perfect ... The way we build stuff at Apple is often this way."

He also framed his motivations and the principles that drove him forward in terms of Dylan and The Beatles.

"They kept evolving, moving, refining their art," Jobs said of the artists. "That's what I've always tried to do -- keep moving. Otherwise, as Dylan says, if you're not busy being born, you're busy dying."

Android Apps More Popular Than iOS Apps, ABI Research Study Finds

On Monday, marketing firm ABI Research released a study which showed that Android app downloads have overtaken those of iOS. Of all mobile apps downloaded in the second quarter of 2011, 44 percent were Android while only 31 percent were iOS.

In a press release, an ABI research associate chalked this up to to the fact that Android platform is open, allowing any developer to create and distribute any app:

    Being a free platform has expanded the Android device install base, which in turn has driven growth in the number of third party multi-platform and mobile operator app stores. These conditions alone explain why Android is the new leader in the mobile application market.

In addition, Android phones are finding their way into the hands of more and more users, therefore it's not a huge surprise that more Android apps are being downloaded. According to comScore's August report on mobile market share, almost 44 percent of smartphone owners have Android phones while 27 percent have iPhones. These numbers closely resemble ABI's percentages for Android and iOS app market share.

The ABI study nods to the disparity between the number of Android and iOS supporting handsets. According to their report, iPhone shipments decreased by 6 percent in the second quarter, while Android shipments increased 16 percent. Apple expects next quarter's iPhone sales to be much higher and has speculated that the drop in iPhone shipments was probably partly due to consumers holding off on buying new phone until the iPhone 4S came out.

While fewer people have iPhones, they download more apps each than Android users do. In fact, Apple is beating Android 2-to-1 in terms of app downloads per user. The ABI report attributes this to, "Apple's superior monetization policies attracted good developers within its ranks, thus creating a better catalog of apps and customer experience."

Business Insider writes that this distinction is important for Apple because it means developers will continue working with them even though Android has more users, "For now, developers are still happier with iOS despite the smaller user base and smaller number of total downloads."

Even though it's easier for developers to get apps into the Android Market, at least some of them prefer Apple's strict vetting process that keeps bad apps out. In an interview with The Huffington Post, one developer said that the quality of apps on the Android Market was "pathetically low." Which may be why the ABI report found that the number of app downloads per iOS user was twice as high as that of Android users.

While Android may be dominating the smartphone market in terms of units sold and apps downloaded, Apple is the clear winner when it comes to tablets. According to Mashable, Apple's tablet market share as of April 2011 was around 83 percent. While some report that sales of Android tablets have started to catch up with Apple's iPad sales, PC World thinks Android's tablet numbers are being inflated by "shaky math" and clever semantics. While Apple usually reports tablet figures in terms of how many have been sold, Android often talks in terms of how many are shipped. It sounds impressive to say 250,000 tablets have been shipped, but not if 95 percent of them are sitting in a warehouse somewhere unable to be sold.

Steve Jobs Eulogy by “Last True Hacker” Goes Too Far

The reaction to Steve Jobs’s death from most members of the technology establishment — including Bill Gates, Mark Zuckerberg and the founders of Google — has been dignified, heartfelt and respectful.

Those adjectives do not apply to the reaction of Richard M. Stallman, the leader of the free software movement and the so-called “last true hacker,” who responded in a different way.

On his personal political blog, Stallman remembers Jobs as “The pioneer of the computer as a jail made cool,” and remarks that “I’m not glad he’s dead but I’m glad he’s gone.”

Stallman is known for his radical and often controversial beliefs, especially as it comes to software — or, more specifically, Stallman’s vision of software freedom. He famously surfs the web not from a web browser but from a daemon he runs from the command line that emails him the contents of a web page.

Apparently, going around your ass to get to your elbow is just that much more free than using a web browser. All hail software freedom. The freedom to get absolutely nothing productive done.

Stallman is influential, for sure. His work on GCC, the Gnu Compiler Collection has had a huge impact on the way that modern software is written. Furthermore, without the GNU system and its toolchain, Linux would not exist as it does today.

Still, I’m bothered by Stallman’s remarks. The man is famously anti-social and his views on software freedom (don’t you dare call it open source!) have put him at odds with practically every person who has ever touched a computer. Despite that, I would have hoped the man had enough common sense and compassion to at least refrain from comment.

Mr. Stallman is certainly entitled to his own opinion and to express that opinion any way he wants. I just wish he would be more open to others expressing opinions that differ from his own. For instance, some might argue the freedom to choose something closed is just as important as the freedom to choose something open.

Furthermore, I am bothered by Stallman’s stance that art, music and film are worthy of being provided protection under the law, but software is somehow a lesser form. Why should anyone who develops software not be allowed to use their code or share their code as they like? To me, that undervalues every single software developer. Including Mr. Stallman.

Stallman’s full comments:

    Steve Jobs, the pioneer of the computer as a jail made cool, designed to sever fools from their freedom, has died.

    As Chicago Mayor Harold Washington said of the corrupt former Mayor Daley, “I’m not glad he’s dead, but I’m glad he’s gone.” Nobody deserves to have to die – not Jobs, not Mr. Bill, not even people guilty of bigger evils than theirs. But we all deserve the end of Jobs’ malign influence on people’s computing.

    Unfortunately, that influence continues despite his absence. We can only hope his successors, as they attempt to carry on his legacy, will be less effective.

Do you think Stallman went too far with his remarks or was he right on? Let us know.

Apple to Start Television Revolution, Analyst Says

Reports have suggested for more than a year that Apple is working on a smart TV product, and those reports were firmed up last week when an excerpt from Steve Jobs’s biography revealed that the Apple co-Founder was indeed working on an Apple television.

”I’d like to create an integrated television set that is completely easy to use,” Jobs said according to biographer Walter Isaacson. “It would be seamlessly synced with all of your devices and with iCloud. It will have the simplest user interface you could imagine. I finally cracked it.”

In a note to investors on Monday, Ticonderoga Securities analyst Brian White said that the upcoming introduction of a smart TV represents a $100 billion revenue opportunity for the Cupertino, California-based consumer electronics giant. Read on for more.

White says Ticonderoga was the first Wall Street firm to uncover concrete evidence that Apple was working on a television of some kind, revealing in June that the product was already in early production stages. White says such a product will be a much more substantial opportunity for Apple than its current Apple TV set-top box.

“We believe the TV experience is in need of greater simplicity and innovation, providing Apple with opportunity to yet reinvent another product category and develop even closer ties with its customers,” the analyst wrote.

“For Apple, we believe the Smart TV market represents a significant new revenue opportunity for the company, while bringing Apple into a consumer’s living room and providing the digital hub in a home,” White said, noting that DisplaySearch estimates the LCD TV market will generate $100 billion in revenue in 2011 and $102 billion next year.

“We believe a product could hit the market in the coming quarters, opening up a new growth category for Apple and driving sales of existing products that play into the Apple digital ecosystem.”

White believes Apple’s smart TV will tie in closely with Apple’s digital ecosystem. He also believes Apple will charge between two and three times the cost of competing LCD TVs for its television product, which will feature “unmatched aesthetics” and an unrivaled user experience.

“In our view, features such as Siri, FaceTime, the App Store, iTunes and gaming are a natural fit for a full blown Apple TV, combined with potential new features and technologies in the future,” White wrote, adding that deep integration with iTunes and iCloud is also a given.

Finally, White notes that Apple’s smart TV will be a great opportunity for the company to further expand its position in the video game market. He thinks Apple could make some key acquisitions and become a major player in home-based gaming, noting that Apple’s Game Center already has 67 million registered users.

Creator of the iPod: Saving Energy Is Sexy

Can the father of the iPod make saving energy sexy?

Tony Fadell is the man who took the idea of the iPod to Steve Jobs, spawning a renaissance at the company and then overseeing successive products, including the first iPhones. He officially left the company last year (after a stint in a consulting role) to pursue green technologies, and today he's ready with his first introduction.

Dubbed Nest Labs, his post-Apple debut is a home thermostat. Yes, a thermostat.

What's different is that Nest looks like the kind of slick gadget that you'd want to display on your coffee table. Its brushed metal fascia reflects the colors around it, and the sky blue digital display is elegant, yet high tech. It's designed to go on your wall and replace that old-fashioned, mercury-filled Honeywell model we all grew up with. But Nest has a rotating push-in dial (sound familiar?) that makes you want to touch it -- even though after it learns your habits you may never have to.

"I wanted it to be something that draws attention," Fadell told me over lunch before the launch.

Nest certainly does. But it's more than just a pretty face. It's smart, too.

It neatly solves several problems that have bedeviled home owners who have been trying to save energy -- and money -- for years but been thwarted by either awkward technology or expensive home automation systems.

One problem is the second home/country home/away from home issue. If you're not there, why heat or completely cool the house? But of course, you've got to remember to change the thermostat or program it. I've installed programmable thermostats. They're clunky and about as easy to use as a mainframe computer from the 50s.

Nest takes a different approach by learning when you turn it up and down, understanding your preferred settings at particular times of the day, and then after a week or so starting to make those changes on its own. It even has a motion sensor so that if no one walks by it after a couple of hours, it will switch into "away" mode, and turn down the heat or the AC, according to presets. (Of course, you can turn it back up, and it will learn to stay on longer, too.)

Current programmable thermostats can be set for a week, but they don't learn your family's habits or watch for movement. They also aren't automatically connected to the Internet.

Nest has built-in Wi-Fi so that it can connect to a home network. It can then be set or adjusted remotely from anywhere, including an iPhone or Android-based smartphone. To warm up or cool down the house before you get there, simply tap a few settings from your phone before you leave the office -- or while you're on the way there.

Fadell also considered other issues with existing programmable thermostats: They usually require power (something the old ones don't) and aren't compatible with forthcoming smart meters from the power companies. Nest has a built-in rechargeable battery that receives a trickle charge from existing wires (no new wiring needed) and it has the de facto communications standard that power companies are using built in. And most people should be able to install Nest in about 20 minutes.

How much energy or money could you save? The U.S. Department of Energy says a typical home owner saves about 10 percent with a standard programmable thermostat. Fadell thinks Nest can do better, by shaving 20 to 30 percent off some people's energy bills. That's several hundred dollars or more a year for most of us, which should justify Nest's $249 price tag.

Nest will go on sale in November, available not just in hardware stores but from electronics stores like BestBuy, which also sets it apart from other solutions. Unlike other home energy focused tech companies, such as Tendril and Opower, Nest is reaching out directly to consumers. You don't even have to go to a hardware store.

Fadell thinks there's a huge market for Nest. According to the CEO, there are about 150 million thermostats in American homes, 60 percent of which are manual thermostats. Roughly 10 million are swapped out or installed each year, many for digital thermostats these days. (Not exactly iPod market numbers, but still serious business.)

Even those people who already have electronic thermostats could benefit from a smarter gadget, however: Nest's device is the first to learn your habits and alter itself, after all.

While iPods and iPhones are wonderful devices, Fadell says he wanted to make a more meaningful difference by bringing similar technology to the green market. With Nest he may succeed in doing exactly that, applying slick, high-tech, easy-to-use solutions to the dull world of heating and air-conditioning.

And he hints, there's more to come.

Read more:

Control Siri from 50 feet away with Iris 9000 for iPhone 4S

The Iris 9000 iPhone 4S accessory from ThinkGeek allows users to control the Siri voice recognition assistant from across the room.

With Apple’s iPhone 4S now solidly on the market, the wave of peripheral devices has begun to gather its ground swell, and will soon be crashing into tech retailers around the world. This morning, the first mists of these devices landed in our inbox, and it’s actually pretty cool.

Dubbed the Iris 9000, this newly launched device allows users to control the Siri voice recognition assistant, which is one of the big new features exclusive to the iPhone 4S, from up to 50 feet away.

On its own, Siri lets users perform a multitude of tasks just by speaking naturally into their phone. Unlike voice recognition artificial intelligence of the past, Siri can understand things like “What’s the weather like today?” or “Change my 3 o’clock meeting to four.” or “Send Mom an emails that says, ‘I want socks for Christmas.’” (You get the point.) Siri then performs the requested task.

To use Iris 9000, simply plug your iPhone 4S into the dock. Iris comes with a small remote, which can easily fit in the pocket. Hit the button on the remote, Siri will chime, and the built-in microphone of Iris 9000 will pick up your commands. Once Siri has an answer, “her” response will play through the speaker of the Iris 9000.

Of course, much of Siri’s functionality – like performing web searches or finding directions to the nearest coffee shop – requires that you be able to see the screen of your iPhone 4S, not just hear what Siri has to say, so that limits the usefulness of Iris 9000.

Iris 9000 can also be used to make calls, like a standard speakerphone device. And the giant red “eye” of Iris 9000 flashes when Siri is speaking, giving you even more of a 2001: A Space Odyssey user experience.

Produced and sold exclusively by ThinkGeek, Iris 9000 is set to launch in spring 2012 (according to the ThinkGeek page, it will be available for purchase on April 18) for a price of $59.99.

Steve Jobs The Movie: Sony Wants Aaron Sorkin to Write It

Sony is moving forward on a cinematic adaptation of Walter Isaacson’s biography of Steve Jobs, and is courting Aaron Sorkin to write the screenplay, according to one report.

The LA Times cites a source “briefed on the project but not authorized to speak publicly,” who says that Sorkin is on a shortlist of screenwriters being considered for the project. The West Wing creator is considering the project, this source says, but has made no decision.

Sorkin won an Academy Award for his adaptation of another Silicon Valley story, The Social Network. The writer also has a strong relationship with Sony — which produced The Social Network and the last film he penned, Moneyball.

Sorkin seems like a natural fit, given his penchant for witty dialogue and strong but flawed male protagonists. But there are a couple of reasons why he might not choose to do it. The fact that the Jobs story treads the same sort of tech-based territory as The Social Network may prevent the writer from taking on the project. Typecasting is a major fear in Hollywood, and it’s not just for actors. Sorkin may not want to be pegged as a writer of geeky drama.

Additionally, as the LA Times points out, Sorkin actually knew Jobs. Two weeks ago, Sorkin penned his own memories of Jobs in a column for Newsweek. Whether or not that relationship would conflict with the process of bringing Jobs to the silver screen is something Sorkin will have to decide for himself.

But for film and Apple fans, the thought of a Sorkin-penned screenplay is extremely attractive. It’s hard not to become enamored with the idea of what a writer of Sorkin’s caliber could do with a character like Jobs.

SEE ALSO: “The Social Network”: Mashable’s Complete Movie Review

Part of what made The Social Network such an achievement was that the work of Sorkin, director David Fincher and Jesse Eisenberg elevated an idea that was laughable (a Facebook movie?) into a work of art.

With The Social Network, there was an onus on the cast and crew to convince the audience that Facebook and Mark Zuckerberg were worthy of being immortalized on film. With Jobs, that argument doesn’t have to be made. The legacy and Apple is implicitly understood.

The challenge with making a film about Steve Jobs is the inverse of making one about Facebook; it’s not about convincing an audience that a film needs to be made, it’s about living up to the expectations set forth by the character that is center to the story itself.

Sony has a good track record for these sorts of projects. With Mark Gordan (Saving Private Ryan) as producer, it has a shot at succeeding artistically and financially. Do you think Sorkin would be a good choice for the project? Let us know in the comments.

Apple Could Release TV Set in 2012

 Apple is working on a TV set that could appear by the end of next year or early 2013.

According to three unnamed sources, Jeff Robbin, a software engineer who helped create iTunes and the iPod, is leading development on an Apple TV set that goes far beyond the $99 console the company currently has available.

Interest in a potential TV set was sparked by the release of Apple founder and former CEO Steve Jobs’s authorized biography Monday. In the biography, Jobs told author Walter Isaacson he had finally discovered how to build an integrated, wirelessly synched TV set with “the simplest user interface you could imagine.”

Although Apple declined to comment, sometimes-reliable Piper Jaffray analyst Gene Munster says a TV set is indeed in the works and could be announced by the end of next year or in 2013. The TV set could be accompanied by a cloud-based system that would allow users to access and search for content obtained through Apple and third-party services such as Netflix.

Meet Dot: The iPhone Panoramic Video Camera You Funded

 Dot, a hardware attachment for capturing panoramic video on the iPhone, starts shipping Tuesday after a short but storied development — one that began with the help of more than 1,000 backers on crowd-funding site Kickstarter in May.

Dot will also land on Apple Store retail shelves nationwide starting Nov. 1.

Dot, developed by New York-based startup Kogeto, is a compact $79 iPhone 4 or iPhone 4S video camera attachment — available in black, red, pink and green — that lets anyone shoot and share 360-degree shots.

This isn’t one of those piecemeal panoramic experiences weaved together via software; this is the real deal. And it works remarkably well, as Mashable witnessed first-hand in a live demo with Kogeto founder and CEO Jeff Glasse earlier this year. Dot is lightweight, and does not require batteries or recharging.

Snap Dot on to your device, use the accompanying Looker iPhone app, and start shooting panoramic video via a lens designed to capture 360 degrees of video. You can then share your complete-perspective captures, a.k.a. “Dotspots,” via Facebook and Twitter, or on

Dot represents the collective intelligence gleaned from Kogeto’s experience building Lucy, an advance desktop panoramic video camera designed for professional and educational use.

“We wanted … to put a panoramic capture device in everyone’s hand, and Kickstarter allowed us to do that,” Glasse explains.

Glasse started Kogeto and initially launched Lucy with his entire life savings. And while Lucy has been successful enough to keep the small company afloat, Glasse knew that Kogeto would need to take on more capital to turn the Dot prototype into a product that consumers could buy in stores. But he didn’t want to take on venture capital at the time.

Enter Kickstarter, the crowd-funding service making it possible for small startups like Kogeto to finance their dream products — just so long as the community believes in the mission too. Kogeto sought to raise $20,000 via Kickstarter to fund and produce Dot. More than 1,000 backers had a better idea: They pledged a total of $120,514.

“We started with a $20,000 goal and we were hoping to beat it … to raise $40,000. We raised $120,000,” Glasse says. “But more importantly, we knew there was a demand for Dot.”

Demand is right. Dot, says Glasse, has racked up thousands of pre-orders in advance of Tuesday’s official release date. The startup has netted relationships with online retailers anxious to sell the device and has already found favor with Apple, who will help distribute the device via its U.S. Apple Stores come November.

One of Dot’s first taglines — “Put down the camera. Enjoy the party” — best exemplifies the power of the petite device, Glasse says. “The idea is that you can put it down and you can have a non-inflected, non-contrived interaction with me where I might let my guard down and just be who I am with you.”

“This is one of those enabling technologies that’s almost hard to explain to people how many things it makes possible,” he adds.

iPod creator's next quest: Making thermostats sexy

It's hard to imagine making thermostats sexy, but if anyone could do it, it would be the "father of the iPod."

In 2008, amid renewed concerns about Steve Jobs' health, Fortune ranked the probable candidates to someday replace the famed Apple CEO. The first choice? Then COO and eventual successor Tim Cook. The second? ITony Fadell, chief of the iPod division and the man credited with the ideas that resulted in the creation of the iPod and its marriage with the iTunes Music Store.

Around that time, Fadell left Apple, his next move unknown, and since then, he's been in stealth mode. But today, he re-emerged, announcing Nest, a 100-person startup that's applying the design and user-experience DNA of Apple and many other top Silicon Valley firms to a humdrum home appliance that just happens to govern the largest share of American households' energy spending: the thermostat.

With its Learning Thermostat, Nest is going all in and telling the world that a ubiquitous but hard-to-master device that hasn't had a major redesign in decades is due for a shot of iPod and iPhone design magic. Fadell and his team think they've come up with an alternative that's easy to use and that learns from what we do. Along the way, the company thinks it could cut 20 percent to 30 percent off the average household's $1,000 or so in annual energy bills.

The new device is small and round and has a bright and simple digital screen and you jog the outer case left or right or push-click the front to make selections. Sound familiar? Plus it works hand in hand with an iOS--and soon an Android--app that lets users control the system from afar.

Windows 8: A bad bet

Given my choice of desktops, I’m running Linux, but over the years Windows has gone from being a bad joke of a desktop operating systems–Windows ME and Vista–to being a reasonably good choice-Windows XP SP3 and Windows 7. But Windows 8? What the heck is Microsoft thinking?

After looking at Metro, Windows 8’s default interface, for the last month, all I see a lame, reactionary response to iPad and Android. In a broader sense, it’s Microsoft’s response to the move away from the desktop to smartphones and tablets.

Great Debate: Is Microsoft’s next operating system headed in the right direction?

Microsoft has made it clear that while there will be room for the Windows 7’s Aero style interface, in Windows 8, Microsoft really wants everyone working with the Metro interface and applications. When I look at Metro, I see gaudy colors, boxy designs, applications that can either run as a small tile or as full screen with no way to re-size or move windows. Where have I seen this before… Wait, I know! Windows 1.0!

Twenty-five plus years of user-interface development and this, this, is what we get!? Scary isn’t it?

If you want an interesting take on a universal interface, take a look at Ubuntu’s Unity desktop. Metro? It’s klutzy and even people who love Windows admit that “the jury’s still out on the touch/no touch question.”

But, even if Metro was just a touch tablet interface I doubt that would find many users. Google’s Android 4.0, Ice Cream Sandwich and Apple’s iOS 5 already have better, more usable interfaces, and they’ll have years more to improve before Windows 8 actually arrives. This isn’t just my opinion. Look at the market. Metro is already Windows Phone 7.x’s interface and that OS has a tiny fraction of the smartphone market.

Besides, bread and butter Windows users already know the Windows interface. Metro is Not the Windows interface. Heck, Mac OS X Lion and Mint Linux 11’s GNOME 2.28 both look and feel more like Windows 7 than Windows 8 Metro does. Fortunately, you can use a more Windows’ like interface, but Microsoft really seems to want everyone to move to Metro.

Windows developers can’t love Metro either. They’ve spend years mastering .NET, Windows Communication Foundation (WCF), Windows Presentation Foundation (WPF), etc. etc. and now they have to learn WinRT and Jupiter/XAML? That’s bad enough, but since you’ll need to rewrite your app. for the more traditional Windows-style desktop your work load just doubled.

Metro is going to be a pain for both users and developers. It seems to me that with Metro, Microsoft is headed toward another Vista-sized fiasco.

Microsoft can’t afford that kind of disaster. This isn’t the 90s or the 2000s. Today, users buy tablets and smartphones. According to IDC, tablets alone in 2011 will equal 17% of the PC market’s sales. At the same time, tablet sales are growing explosively PCs sales are barely moving upward. If Windows 8 is a failure, Windows users won’t wait around for the next version the way they did for Windows 7, they’ll just continue to switch over from conventional PCs to Android and iOS devices.

Microsoft may never lose the PC market, but with Windows 8 and Metro they may never have a chance to win the growing, broader computing market of PCs, smartphones and tablets.

Apple owes Steve Jobs $37.91

Steve Jobs has yet to accept small amounts of money owed to him by several companies, including his own.

Apple filed a claim with the state of California saying its CEO, Steven P. Jobs, hasn't claimed property worth $37.91, according to a listing with the state controller's office.

The property type is listed as "other," and a spokesman for the controller declined to elaborate on what the item is because that information isn't public record.

We're guessing it doesn't mean that Jobs forgot to claim his annual bonus.

California law requires claims be posted for property "abandoned or lost" for more than three years. If the person doesn't claim it after six months, the property is transferred to the state, which then attempts to contact the owner, the spokesman said.

The form was filed by Apple Computer Inc., which was the name of the Cupertino, California, company for about three decades before changing to Apple Inc. in 2007.

The document was first reported by the website Gawker, in a post titled, "Apple Has No Idea Where Steve Jobs Is."

While the amount might seem small -- and it certainly would be considered inconsequential for a billionaire like Jobs -- it's the equivalent of nearly 38 years of cash salary for the Apple CEO. Jobs famously takes just $1 per year in salary, cushioned by generous stock options.

Apple didn't immediately respond to a request for comment.

Claims from insurance and technology companies are also listed on the controller's office website. IBM reported that it owes Jobs $21.45 in stock and another mysterious property listed as costing $14.30. Time Warner, which owns CNN, filed a claim last year saying it owes Jobs 20 cents.

Smartphone detects danger in a heartbeat

A new medical invention which harnesses the power of smartphone technology could revolutionize the treatment of heart patients, according to researchers in Switzerland.

The autonomous tool -- developed jointly by the Embedded Systems and Telecommunications Circuits labs at Ecole Polytechnique Federale de Lausanne (EPFL) -- not only automatically identifies anomalies in heart-rate, but also alerts doctors in seconds helping them treat patients more quickly.

"Many of the problems with the heart are not very well understood," says David Atienza, head of the Embedded Systems Lab.

"It's very difficult for doctors to anticipate what is going to happen. This device will provide a better understanding of what is going on," Atienza added.

The small, lightweight monitor consists of four non-invasive electrode sensors attached to the skin which are linked to a radio module and computer chip which clips onto a patient's belt.

Data is fed to the user's smartphone where it can be viewed in real time for anything up to 150 hours on a single charge.
It's very difficult for doctors to anticipate what is going to happen. This device will provide a better understanding of what is going on.
David Atienza from EPFL, Switzerland

Complex algorithms flag up any abnormalities with data sent to a doctor for examination via a picture attachment on text or email.

Watch Atienza explain how the new tool works

"The system collects very reliable and precise data," Atienza says, "but above all it provides an automatic analysis and immediate transmission of data to the doctor, preventing him or her from having to work through hours of recorded data."

It's taken four years to develop and is a leap forward, Atienza says, from more bulky Holter monitors which are generally worn by patients for around 24 hours at a time.

Cardiologist Etienne Pruvot from Lausanne University Hospitals Cardiology Service -- one of two hospitals helping Atienza and his team develop the device -- is excited by its potential.

"Its size, its lightness, its ease of use, the fact that it measures continuously and remotely, which allows analysis to take place anywhere, makes this device very attractive to doctors," Pruvot said in a statement.

Atienza is also confident the tool will find other health-related uses: monitoring athletic performance, perhaps, or assessing diet and physical activity in obese patients, he says.

EPFL's research is part of the wider "Guardian Angels for a Smarter Life" project -- a pan-European project involving universities, research institutions and private companies -- which aims to develop small, autonomous and affordable technology to monitor health and also prevent accidents.

Peter J. Bentley, a computer scientist from the UK's University College London and inventor of the iStethescope app says there is currently a big push for these kinds of technologies.

"Certainly the way medicine seems to be moving is towards ever greater use of mobile devices," Bentley said.

"We are all very excited about the possibilities -- the ability to sample all kinds of different data, store it, transmit it and process it.

"It allows us to monitor different aspects of a patient's health and get data to specialists wherever they are," he added.
We are all very excited about the possibilities -- the ability to sample all kinds of different data, store it, transmit it and process it.
Peter J. Bentley, University College London

Many doctors are already using smartphone apps (there are thousands to choose from) but regulation by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and European legislators is looming, says Bentley.

"In some respects this is a good thing because it's going to ensure (portable medical) devices will be effective," says Bentley, who is currently developing a new automated triage system.

"But the downside is that it takes a long time and slows down the rapid innovation we currently have," he said.

The World Health Organization estimates that 17 million people die of cardiovascular disease every year.

Many of these deaths, Atienza says, happen because the type of pathology isn't detected in time.

"The beauty of this type of device is that you can monitor people 24 hours a day, seven days a week," Atienza said.

Not only will this simplify life for heart patients (less trips to the hospital), he thinks, but it could also slash costs for healthcare systems.

Furthermore, Atienza predicts that wearable round-the-clock monitoring devices will bring about new types of analysis, leading to new treatments and ultimately save lives all around the world.

The Hackathon: Your Ticket To Disrupt Beijing, Great Prizes, And More

Hackers, are you ready? The Disrupt Beijing Hackathon is almost here. Not only is this our fifth time hosting the Hackathon at TechCrunch Disrupt, but it is our very first time hosting it overseas. The Hackathon has become an incredibly popular event, where hackers of every stripe come together to build cool products and businesses — from funny to useful, from bizarre to essential. The goal of the Hackathon is to push innovation forward.

We have been lucky enough to receive support from some amazing companies. These companies will be helping hackers by hosting their own API platforms, providing educational workshops, and offering exciting prizes from their own contests. Make sure to check out the contests and prizes below, and make sure to get your ticket soon! It’s our first Hackathon overseas and one you don’t want to miss.

6waves Lolapps Custom Contest

6waves Lolapps is looking for the next killer game in the social/mobile gaming platforms. Up to 3 winning teams could bring home over US $100,000 worth of prizes and win an opportunity to partner with 6waves Lolapps to get their games published globally. Contestants are welcome to use any open-source or licensed technologies to build a demo social game on any mobile or social network platforms. Example API’s and platforms include Tencent, OpenSocial, Facebook, iOS, and Android platforms. Demos or prototypes with built-in social and cross-platform concepts will gain advantage. Demos will be judged based on the following criteria:

- most original creative concept
- highest-level social experience
- best use of cross-platform technologies
- most compelling game design


1st Place: Potential funding from 6waves Lolapps’ 6L Fund (worth up to US$100,000) and 1 iPad 2, 1 Samsung Galaxy Tab

2nd Place: Apple iPad 2 (64GB)

3rd Place: Samsung Galaxy Tab

Why computer voices are mostly female

o most owners of the new iPhone, the voice-activated feature called Siri is more than a virtual "assistant" who can help schedule appointments, find a good nearby pizza or tell you if it's going to rain.

She's also a she.

Siri answers questions in a part-human, part-robot voice that's deep, briskly efficient and distinctly female. (At least in the U.S. and four other countries. In France and the UK, Siri is male.)

People describe the app using female pronouns. Her gender has even prompted some users to flood blogs and online forums with sexually suggestive questions for Siri such as "What are you wearing?" (Siri's baffled response: "Why do people keep asking me this?")

The fuss over Siri's sex also raises a larger question: From voice-mail systems to GPS devices to Siri and beyond, why are so many computerized voices female?

One answer may lie in biology. Scientific studies have shown that people generally find women's voices more pleasing than men's.

"It's much easier to find a female voice that everyone likes than a male voice that everyone likes," said Stanford University Professor Clifford Nass, author of "The Man Who Lied to His Laptop: What Machines Teach Us About Human Relationships." "It's a well-established phenomenon that the human brain is developed to like female voices."
HAL, the homicidal artificial intelligence in \
HAL, the homicidal artificial intelligence in "2001: A space Odyssey," may have scared manufacturers away from male automated voices.

Research suggests this preference starts as early as the womb, Nass said. He cites a study in which fetuses were found to react to the sound of their mother's voice but not to other female voices. The fetuses showed no distinct reaction to their father's voice, however.

Another answer lies in history. According to some sources, the use of female voices in navigation devices dates back to World War II, when women's voices were employed in airplane cockpits because they stood out among the male pilots. And telephone operators have traditionally been female, making people accustomed to getting assistance from a disembodied woman's voice.

When automakers were first installing automated voice prompts in cars ("your door is ajar") decades ago, their consumer research found that people overwhelmingly preferred female voices to male ones, said Tim Bajarin, a Silicon Valley analyst and president of Creative Strategies Inc.

This may explain why in almost all GPS navigation systems on the market, the default voice is female. One notable exception has been Germany, where BMW was forced to recall a female-voiced navigation system on its 5 Series cars in the late 1990s after being flooded with calls from German men saying they refused to take directions from a woman.

"Cultural stereotypes run deep," said Nass, who details the BMW episode in his book.

Voice casting

Most companies that produce automated voices hold auditions for voice actors and collect recordings of them speaking. Then they invite focus groups to listen to the recordings and rate the voices on how well they convey certain attributes: warmth, friendliness, competence and so on.

"It's casting," Nass said. "It's something Hollywood has known for a long, long time."

Look no further than examples of automated or artificial-intelligence voices in sci-fi movies and TV shows. Voices of authority or menace tend to be male: the homicidal HAL 9000 computer in "2001: A Space Odyssey," the computer program in "WarGames," or Auto, the spaceship's autopilot function in "Wall-E." More subservient talking machines, such as the onboard computer from the "Star Trek" TV series, skew female.

Bajarin, the Silicon Valley analyst, believes that more computerized voices would be masculine if not for the associations with HAL, whose malicious intent in the 1968 Stanley Kubrick film was made even creepier by his soothing tone.

"A lot of tech companies stayed away from the male voice because of HAL," he said. "I've heard that theory tossed around multiple times." (One prominent exception: The chipper "You've got mail!" voice from AOL's dial-up days.)
What Apple did is absolutely brilliant. They took Siri and gave it more of a personality.
Norman Winarsky

When it comes to consumer applications of computerized voices, the sex of the voice is usually determined by what service or product is employing it. For example, transit systems such as the San Francisco Area's BART often use higher-pitched voices because they are easier to hear over the clatter of the train cars.

Nuance, a Massachusetts-based company that develops speech technologies for Ford vehicles' SYNC system, Amazon e-readers and other clients, creates both male and female voices. It's then up to the client to choose which voice, and gender, best fits their product, said chief creative officer Gary Clayton.

"As these products become part of our everyday lives, there's a huge opportunity for personalization," added Brant Ward, the company's director of advanced speech design. "I could have an approximation of my wife's voice read me a text message in my car."

Siri: Brilliant or sexist?

Siri, the iPhone 4S's voice, grew from a five-year research project that was funded by military agency DARPA and led by SRI International, a Bay Area research institute. The project spawned a company, also called Siri, that launched an iPhone app in February 2010 and was acquired by Apple two months later.

That original Siri voice-to-text app -- powered in part by Nuance's technology -- also worked by people speaking commands into their phones, although it didn't talk back. And it had no gender. In fact, the app was originally conceived to speak in a gender-neutral voice, said Norman Winarsky, vice president of SRI and a co-founder of Siri.

"What Apple did is absolutely brilliant," said Winarsky, who calls speech "the most natural of all human interfaces."

"They took Siri and gave it more of a personality," he said. "It's the first real artificial intelligence working in millions of people's hands."

An Apple spokeswoman declined to comment on why the company gave Siri a female voice in the U.S. Nor would she say why Siri speaks like a man in the UK, where iPhone 4S owners have swarmed online forums to request a female voice instead. "Eww!! Hope UK gets female voice soon," wrote one commenter. "I don't think anyone in the US cares about male voice option."

Many GPS devices and computer text-to-speech programs now offer multiple voice options. And someday soon, voice-technology experts say, Siri will probably speak in a variety of voices, too.

Until then, some bloggers have wondered: Are computerized female "assistants" sexist?

Not necessarily, said Rebecca Zorach, director of the Social Media Project at the University of Chicago's Center for the Study of Gender and Sexuality.

"I think they have to be understood in a broader context in which they're one small piece," she wrote in an e-mail to CNN. "Voices intended to convey authority (such as voice-over narration in films) tend to be male. So yes, probably these compliant female robot voices reinforce gender stereotypes, not just because they serve the user but because the technology itself is about communication and relationships (areas that women are presumed to be good at).

"I wouldn't automatically claim any sexism in individual companies' choices, though. Most such decisions are probably the result of market research, so they may be reflecting gender stereotypes that already exist in the general public."

Zorach listened to some sound clips of Siri online, then e-mailed back again.

"What's interesting to me is how they seem to intentionally make her speech sound artificial -- they could choose to make her speech more seamless and human-like, but they choose instead to highlight the technology," she said. "That makes you aware of how high-tech your gadget is."

Google Mulls Buying Yahoo

Google is mulling purchasing Yahoo and has contacted at least two venture capital firms to help buy the company’s core business, according to a report.

Google and prospective partners have held discussions, but haven’t put forth a formal proposal to buy the search giant, according to The Wall Street Journal, which cited “a person familiar with the matter.”

As the story notes, any such deal is likely to raise red flags among antitrust regulators. Google’s not the only one rumored to be interested in buying the troubled Yahoo. Microsoft, which has a 10-year search deal with Yahoo, is also said to be interested.

Twitter study reveals people’s mood swings

 Researchers at Cornell University have looked at more than half a billion tweets across 84 countries to find out how people's moods change through the day.

A study that analysed millions of tweets over a period of two years has revealed that people are most cheerful soon after waking up. Their mood then worsens as the day continues, before lifting again last thing at night.
Sure, most of us probably could’ve guessed this would be the case, but here’s a study that appears to confirm it.
Researchers at Cornell University in New York state looked at more than half a billion tweets by 2.54 million individuals in 84 countries and discovered that people generally wake up in a good mood (well, after that initial bleary-eyed phase passes) but as the day goes on their mood gradually worsens.
The results of the study, which was carried out by Cornell graduate student Scott Golder, were published in the journal Science on Thursday.
Together with another graduate student, Golder came up with a computer program that pulled information from all Twitter accounts which were set up between February 2008 and April 2009. Four hundred messages were analysed from each of these accounts.
They then used a text analysis program to look at the type of language used and the time of day that the tweets were written and posted.
Out of the all the data they collected, the researchers concluded that people the world over were in the best mood early in the morning and again close to midnight. On the weekend, the good-mood peak was a little later in the morning, presumably because people were sleeping late.
The authors noted that the mood cycle on weekdays (when most people are working or studying) was very similar to that of weekends (when most people are relaxing), indicating that sleep patterns and circadian rhythms had a big influence on mood regardless of the stresses of the day.
From behavior-oriented words in the tweets, they also discovered that bacon is more popular than sausage and that it takes an average of seven hours to become drunk (that seems rather long, doesn’t it?). This finding was based on the time between tweets about “beer” and later tweets about being “drunk.”
A medical sociologist at Harvard University, Dr. Nicholas Christakis, said that while the results of the study may not seem so astonishing, what it does show is how web users’ “little digital breadcrumbs” can be used for research.
But as psychologist Martin Seligman from the University of Pennsylvania pointed out, using social media for research also throws up the problem of ensuring you have a representative sample. “Young, educated, rich people use social media. Rural Indian farmers do not,” he said.

Gamers help discover two new planets

Using the game Planet Hunters, gamers have discovered two new planets in the Cygnus constellation.

In what is starting to look like the beginnings of a trend, casual gamers have helped scientists make significant discoveries through a specially designed game for the second time this month. Using a small portion of the massive amounts of data collected by NASA’s Kepler Space Telescope, people playing the browser-based game Planet Hunters have helped to identify two new planets in the Cygnus Constellation.

Earlier this months a different type of game called FoldIt helped researchers solve a decade old chemical structure puzzle, thanks to the efforts of thousands of gamers around the world that were presented with an enzyme as part of a puzzle game. Within ten days the combined efforts of the gamers resulted in deciphering the enzyme which could help AIDS researchers find a cure.

While perhaps not quite as groundbreaking, the recently released report for Planet Hunters shows that using average citizens to help with complex tasks—when presented in an entertaining fashion—can lead to some incredible results.

“Planet Hunters is a new citizen science project, designed to engage the public in an exoplanet search using NASA Kepler public release data. In the first month after launch, users identified two new planet candidates which survived our checks for false-positives,” the report said.

Where FoldIt was essentially a puzzle game that gave scores and even had leaderboards for properly aligning enzymes in their most energy efficient manner, Planet Hunters is a bit more observational in nature. The game takes sections of data from NASA’s Kepler telescope, then asks users to look for light anomalies, which could lead to the discovery of a planet.

The Kepler telescope has currently collected light emission data on over 150,000 stars. The telescope measures the light output of these stars every 30 seconds in the hopes that it will see a slight dimming, which could denote that a planet is crossing the sun’s surface and blocking a small portion of the light output. The bigger the planet, the bigger the dimming effect. Computers can help compile the data, but are not able to differentiate the transit events anymore than a computer could identify a particular face from a picture of crowded football stadium. It is meticulous work that needs to be done by a person.

The sheer amount of data researchers have to go through is overwhelming, and that’s where Planet Hunters comes in. People are asked to sift through fields of stars that have been tracked for a 30+ day period. Players then look for “transit events,” which is the brief dimming in the star that happens when a planet passes in front of it. The further a planet is from the star, the longer it will be before it crosses and therefore becomes more difficult to find, while the planets closet to their stars are relatively easier to detect. Players are tasked with identifying these light dips.

While not quite as enthralling as FoldIt’s puzzle format, Planet Hunter has registered over 40,000 members since it went live in 2009. In 4 million games the players have discovered 69 possible planets, the first two of which have just passed NASA’s scrutiny. NASA researchers will continue to sift through the data submitted and announce any more results. As for the people that discovered the two planets, I09 reports that they will officially acknowledged by the Royal Astronomical Society.

The game is funded by the, a scientific community website that presents projects like Planet Hunters in order to help professionals sort through data in fun ways.

“The involvement of citizen scientists as part of Planet Hunters is therefore shown to be a valuable and reliable tool in exoplanet detection,” the report confirmed.

20 percent of women would give up sex for Facebook

With the addictive nature of Facebook growing with more personal information being shared on the social network, some women would ditch their partners to peruse the latest batch of status updates rather than spend time in the bedroom.

In a survey of over 2,000 women conducted by Cosmopolitan magazine, one in five women would rather give up sex for a week than giving up all the time spent on Facebook checking up on the lives of friends. Adding to that figure, about 57 percent of the female respondents would rather hang onto their computer than give it up for a week just to have sex and 50 percent would do the same with their mobile smartphone. However, 80 percent of the group would easily give up their favorite television shows for a week and 70 percent would stop texting over a mobile phone for a week to continue having sex.

A recent Telenav study in August 2011 found that one-third of Americans wouldn’t give up their smartphones for a week to continue having sex. Combine that with the Cosmopolitan survey and that percentage is likely skewed upwards due to more females over men ditching sex to hang onto their smartphone. Over vices and activities that ranked over 50 percent in that Telenav study included exercise, caffeine, chocolate and alcohol; all of which would easily be halted for a week to continue using a mobile phone. Another study from the presentation creating SlideRocket found that nearly one out of four people would give up sexual relations if that meant being able to avoid another boring PowerPoint presentation while in an office meeting.

Even more extreme, a Kelton Research study conducted during June 2011 found that 25 percent of college students would give up dating and sex for an entire year if they could ditch purchasing and lugging around heavy textbooks. The alternative would be in the form of digital textbooks through devices like the Kindle. Seventy percent of the group preferred the idea of digital textbooks over the paper alternative and over half of the group claimed that it would make studying more efficient.

Japanese toilet maker Toto unveils motorcycle powered by poop

To highlight a green initiative being undertaken by Japanese toilet maker Toto, the company has unveiled a motorcycle powered by human waste. Could this be a vision of the future? No, probably not.

Now that the dust is beginning to settle following the hype surrounding the launch of Apple’s iPhone 4S, it’s time to get back to the serious stuff: Japanese toilet maker Toto has just unveiled a poo-powered motorcycle.

The ingenious design runs on human waste, but what makes it really special is that you can fill it up while you’re moving along – that’s right, the toilet is fitted directly onto the vehicle.

OK, before you start asking, “Where can I get myself one of these?”.…(hang on, you weren’t really going to ask that, were you?), we’d better make it clear that there are currently no plans for a commercial release of Toilet Bike Neo. Indeed, the only release taking place will be by the person riding the vehicle.

The bike, complete with large toilet roll on the back, has been created to draw attention to the Toto Green Challenge (pdf) campaign, where the company has set itself a number of targets to reduce CO2 emissions across all areas of its business by 2017.

Apparently the motorcycle’s toilet also plays music, and even talks. You can see a video (in Japanese) of one of Toto’s talking toilets here.

On Thursday the unique motorcycle will begin a month-long poo-fueled journey across Japan from Toto’s base in the west of the country all the way to Tokyo, publicizing its Green Challenge initiative as it goes, and educating people about how they can cut down on their emissions, so to speak. The Toto blog will be documenting Toilet Bike Neo’s journey to the Japanese capital.

We assume the rider of the poo-powered motorcycle won’t have to waste time making a bathroom stop, though it’s possible they could still end up stranded by the roadside if they run out of gas.

Blizzard embraces kung-fu pandas for next WoW expansion

With World of Warcraft players looking for new ways to level up their characters, Blizzard released a barrage of information on the next expansion pack for the MMORPG.

During the opening ceremonies of Blizzcon Friday, Blizzard revealed the fourth expansion pack for the popular World of Warcraft series. Titled World of Warcraft: Mists of Pandaria, the expansion pack allows players to create a new character called the pandaren, a panda bear creature that has training in martial arts. This is a neutral character, thus players can choose to join either the Alliance or the Horde with the pandaren. In addition, a new class called the Monk has been opened up in the game. Players will have the option of customizing the Monk to become a healer, a damage dealer or a defensive tank-like character to absorb the majority of damage from attacks.

Mists-of-PandariaBeyond the new zones like the Kun-Lai Summit, Jade Forest and the Wandering Isle to explore, the level cap has been raised by ten levels to 90 for the WoW veterans. Blizzard is also introducing a pet-battling system for players to pit pets against each other in PVP turn-based fights similar to Pokemon. In addition, Blizzard is adding a new time-trial mode for players to earn prestige points by completing dungeons in a specific amount of time. While Blizzard didn’t announce a release date for the new expansion pack, WoW players can get a sneak peak at the beta by signing up for the WoW Annual pass. By putting up an entire year’s worth of subscription fees for World of Warcraft, players get into the beta early as well as a free copy of Diablo III.

In addition to the expansion announcement, Blizzard also unveiled a Defense of the Ancients type of game where players control teams of heroes to annihilate structures on the opposite side of the map. Only titled Blizzard Dota at the moment, the game will utilize popular characters from many other Blizzard franchises. Similar to Mists of Pandaria, there is no release date for Blizzard Dota yet.