Archive for January, 2012

Look and Feel of Google Android Comes Together

January 6th, 2012 No comments
10 Epic Android Apps

10 Epic Android Apps

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Google has a new dress code for Android. The semi-open nature of Android has ensured that makers of Android handsets and developers of Android apps have considerable freedom to alter the user interface (UI).

The less open Apple iOS platform also allows developers to design apps as they see fit, provided Apple’s UI guidelines aren’t trampled in the process. But Apple doesn’t have iOS hardware partners reimagining the basic device interface–which some would argue is for the best–the way that Google partners HTC and Samsung have done.

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Despite a marginal edge in openness, Google has recognized that a bit of guidance about Android themes and styles could bring some order to its unruly mobile ecosystem. In keeping with the company’s recent UI overhaul of its websites, Google is requiring its hardware partners to include the unmodified Holo theme on Android 4.0 devices–the native theme in Android 4.0 (a.k.a. Ice Cream Sandwich)–for the sake of compatibility.

“Before Android 4.0 the variance in system themes from device to device could make it difficult to design an app with a single predictable look and feel,” said Google software engineer Adam Powell in a blog post. “We set out to improve this situation for the developer community in Ice Cream Sandwich and beyond.”

[ Find out what may be ahead for Google in 2012. Read Google In 2012: 10 Predictions. ]

Henceforth, devices that ship with Android Market support will be required to include the Holo theme. And that’s going to be most Android devices (at least until Amazon ships an Android-based phone), given that Android Market has just topped 400,000 apps, according to Distmo.

For developers, this means that apps written for Android 4.0 can rely on a predictable look and feel even when there’s a custom skin. This is helpful because it reduces the amount of testing necessary to ensure that an app will work with a non-standard theme, and it will help apps remain functional in the face of future theme revisions.

Powell is careful to stress that Google isn’t trying to limit manufacturer customization, seen in themes like HTC’s Sense or Samsung’s TouchWiz. He says that the new DeviceDefault theme family allows developers to target the device’s native theme while retaining manufacturer customizations designed to override default styles.

By Thomas Claburn,  InformationWeek 
January 04, 2012

Categories: android, google, mobile Tags:

The Year of the Ultrabook – 2012

January 3rd, 2012 No comments

The 2012 International Consumer Electronics Show returns to Las Vegas, Nev., on Tuesday, January 10, and the tech trade show is bringing with it expectations of ultrabooks.

Just as 2011 was dubbed “the year of the tablet” by the wishful thinkers–it turned out to be the year of the iPad–2012 is being called “the year of the ultrabook.”

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In other words, 2012 is “the year of the MacBook Air and its imitators,” though Taiwan’s DigiTimes suggests makers of ultrabooks will have a hard time matching the MacBook Air’s price.

And price matters, particularly given the current economic climate. A recent IDC report on ultrabooks observes, “Global economic conditions have restrained consumer discretionary spending in many areas, including electronics. Consumers may not perceive incremental value from an Ultrabook-class PC in proportion to the premium price, especially as ‘good enough’ computing options cost less than half than those of an Ultrabook PC.”

Mac sales have grown faster than PC sales for the past 32 consecutive quarters and the MacBook Air, having filled the space left by the discontinuation of the MacBook, now accounts for more than 28% of Apple’s U.S. notebook sales, up from just 8% in May.

PC makers are rushing ultrabooks to market in response to the MacBook Air’s strong reception and consumer affinity for tablets, having evidently been caught unaware that portable devices can never be too thin.

Matthew Wilkins, principal analyst of computer platforms at consultancy IHS, suggests thatnotebook PCs must go on a diet to match the appeal of media tablets, not to mention the MacBook Air. “With media tablets having already reversed the expansion of the previously fast-growing netbook platform, PC makers now are keenly aware that the notebook must evolve to maintain market growth and relevance,” he said in November. “Enter the ultrabook, which borrows some of the form-factor and user-interface advantages of the media tablet to enhance the allure of the venerable notebook.”

[ Click here to rewind: Read CES 2011: Catching Up With Apple. ]

IHS iSuppli projects ultrabooks will make up 43% of global PC shipments in 2015, up from 2% in 2011 and 13% in 2012. Shawn DuBravac, director of research for the Consumer Electronics Association, which operates CES, said in December that he expects to see somewhere between 30 and 50 new ultrabooks debut at the electronics show.

There will be tablets, too, although the ones that sell well will mostly bear the Apple logo. IDC research director for mobile connected devices Tom Mainelli expects Apple to have its best quarter ever over during the last three months of 2011 and foresees further traction for Apple products in the enterprise and education markets in 2012. At the same time, he expects Amazon’s Kindle Fire to help Android devices increase their share of the media tablet market from about 33% to around 40% by the end of 2011. A new model iPad–the iPad 3 or some other name–is expected in the first half of 2012, though Apple won’t be present to say anything about it at CES.

Microsoft presumably will promise a Windows 8 tablet. But we’ve been there before: In 2010, CEO Steve Ballmer showed off a Windows-powered HP slate, only to have HP dump Windows for Palm and webOS a few months later. There was also talk of a Windows 7 tablet at 2011 CES, but it was just talk. Now, we’ve come full circle. HP is once again planning a Windows tablet.

Google TV should make an appearance at 2012 CES. Google is expected to announce new hardware partners–possibly electronics maker LG and Samsung–and new chip hardware, possibly ARM-based chips, which could make Google TV less expensive than the current generation of devices that rely on Intel silicon. Motorola Mobility, which Google is in the process of acquiring, might contribute to the mix, either with its own Google TV box or as the maker of hardware components for other Google partners.

2012 CES might also bring a new generation of TVs and computer monitors designed for 4K resolution–4,000 pixels horizontally. The Toshiba 55ZL2, introduced in September, is a 3D TV that can be viewed without special glasses and features a resolution of 3840 pixels by 2160 pixels, close enough to qualify as 4K.

The Digital Entertainment Content Ecosystem, a Hollywood consortium, is expected to talk about its Ultraviolet movie streaming service, an attempt to replicate the success of iTunes without Apple’s gatekeeping tax. This might prove to be something of a challenge as a vocal group of reviewers on Amazon has panned the studio-backed service.

There will be smartphones, too. Sony Ericsson should show off its Xperia smartphones. Samsung, Intel, and Sprint are rumored to be preparing to announce an Atom-powered Samsung smartphone running Android 4.0. And Verizon is expected to introduce an LTE Windows Phone from Nokia.

We might see the introduction of the next generation of wireless networking technology, 802.11ac, which supports 1 gigabit-per-second connectivity. The current generation of Wi-Fi routers relies on the slower 802.11n specification. Networking equipment maker Broadcom in early December hinted at a CES product announcement related to 802.11ac and hardware availability toward the end of 2012.

By Thomas Claburn   InformationWeek
January 03, 2012 08:00 AM

Categories: notebooks, ultrabooks Tags:

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