Archive for day September 5th, 2011

HTC Jetstream tablet now available from AT&T for $700 on contract

AT&T’s latest Android tablet, the HTC Jetstream, is now available from AT&T for $700 with a two-year data contract. AT&T announced Android 3.1-powered tablet last week and it is equipped with a 10.1-inch display, a 1.5GHz dual-core Qualcomm Snapdragon processor, an 8-megapixel camera with dual-LED flash and a 1.3-megapixel front-facing camera for video chats. AT&T will include the HTC Scribe pen with each purchase at no cost for a limited time. The Jetstream is also available for $849.99 for customers looking to purchase the tablet without a contract.

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Todd Haselton

September 5th

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Microsoft’s Surface Garage: A Cross-Department Development Team, With Pizza And Beer

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Despite being the only TechCrunch writer in Seattle, I don’t get out to Microsoft nearly as much as one might expect. The fact is it’s on the other side of a big lake and getting there usually involves a lot of traffic. But when I get an invite like I did recently, to join a sort of unofficial Surface developers’ club for a meeting, it’s hard to say no. The promise of free pizza had nothing to do with my enthusiasm. I like the Surface.

So it was that I got to join a group of developers from all around Microsoft as they spitballed ideas, compared new projects, and developed a new feature as I watched. They didn’t initiate me into the mysteries of the device or swear me to secrecy regarding plans of world domination, but I got to see some cool new Surface apps and contribute to the development of a new feature. Also, they had Alaskan Amber.

I arrived at the Microsoft campus (one of them, anyway) around 6, and after wandering fruitlessly for a short time (navigating corporate architecture isn’t my strong suit) I was captured and conducted to a conference room where a dozen people or so were arrayed around tables as if for a weekly meeting. After some introductions, the purpose of this secret society was explained.

It turns out that some people really just love working with the Surface. So much so that they can’t get enough during working hours! So this recurring event was created, with pizza and refreshments, to make it worth the extra time being put in. There were people from gaming, Windows, Kinect, marketing, a real cross section of Microsoft life.

I was then given a short tour of some things that people in the group had developed in their spare time, for the most part on their own. A simple but versatile pamphlet presentation app, a sort of paperless coffee table, spoke to the Surface’s tragically commercial-only availability:

But one developer, like myself a fan of “shmups,” had put together a rudimentary but promising shooter using real-life tokens to control your ships. You might remember some time back when we went to see a Dungeons and Dragons game for the Surface, complete with figurines, spells, and kobolds. As you can see below and at the top of this article, this game is a bit more frenetic.

The dots emanate from various locations and it’s your job to navigate them. You move your ship around, point it where you want to shoot, and so on. Having a physical item to play with helps address the lack of tactility that occasionally makes touchscreen games so unsatisfying.

Last was an interesting fusion of two innovative Microsoft products: the Surface and the Kinect. This is a sort of “morning briefing” app that is meant to run on your living room’s idle TV, which one can imagine may some day have a touch panel and depth sensing camera built in. Today it was an upright Surface 2.0 and a stock Kinect:

You always see people in movies set in the future talking to their computers, controlling them with a gesture, and so on. This is a small-scale attempt at something like that that people might actually use. When you’re at a distance, it displays large-granularity info like the weather, upcoming appointments, and so on. You can say “mail” and it’ll switch to email, or “calendar Wednesday” and it’ll switch to that. And when you approach, it senses your proximity with the Kinect and switches to a touchscreen mode where you can touch the news and email items and read them.

All put together by one guy, admittedly using APIs developed by hundreds, but a fun demonstration of what’s possible with the project right now.


We then selected a proposed UI element to be coded tonight more or less from scratch. In this case, a sort of drawer menu was desired, something that could display metadata or properties for an item on screen like a photo. It would need some kind of UI cue to let people know it was there, a gesture to activate it and deactivate it, and some basic parameters to make it play well with other elements.

For something as simple as this, there are still tons of design decisions. Right off the bat, there was the “just in time” question. Should the drawer’s “handle” be visible at all times? Should it show up when you tap, drag, or hold the object? How long after should it disappear? I asked if we could use the Surface 2.0′s ability to see things before they touched the screen and “magically” make the handle appear, but there wasn’t enough time to create the brightness-based blob creation I had in mind.

And then there was the question of how far we wanted to dictate how the item was used. We shouldn’t make it right-side-only in case developers wanted to make it ambidextrous, for instance, and it was decided that handle visibility could be made flexible and left up to the software designers. It’s in situations like this that you can see some fundamental differences between how Microsoft and Apple work. A small sample size, admittedly, but it falls in line with the philosophies I observed at work last week in the Explorer ribbon debacle.

First we discussed, then we whiteboarded, then we started coding. And by “we” I mean “they,” because I don’t know anything about it. I did make some suggestions regarding how to monitor certain types of touches, and I thought I had a rather clever idea regarding how to combine the gestures for opening and closing the drawer (we didn’t implement it, despite its brilliance). And piece by piece, with a few hilarious setbacks (including a not-so-hilarious pizza-related one), our UI element took form.

By the end of the night, we could boast that we’d created a box that you could slide out from underneath another box. But its simple operation belied the many details that went into its construction: it was aligned with and moved along with the other UI element, it only pulled out to a certain distance, and it could potentially be filled with content very easily. We’d left ways for it to be configured one way or another, and despite a few bugs it was a working element — from concept to execution in two hours.

And this is why Surface Garage exists. Because it’s fun to create things like this, to see the results of some collaboration and work after a short interval, and know that it was created that way because everyone wanted it that way. After this, someone will pick up the code for the drawer, clean it up, give it a few parameters, and who knows, maybe the next time you see a Surface, our drawer will be lying dormant under the virtual photos scattered in virtual piles on the screen. Maybe you’ll even see something like it in Windows 8.

I’ve often written about how Microsoft tends to smother good ideas in the cradle, or else strangle them with internal conflict. It’s good that groups like this one (surely one of many) exist, as a blowoff valve for developers just interested in creating. They may not be building billion-dollar ideas, but beer, pizza, and time with like-minded colleagues is its own reward.



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Devin Coldewey

September 5th

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The first Atari Joystick I’ve wanted in 20 years…

Update: DVICE has a review up with the following notes:

  1. It is a 30 pin dock connector, not Bluetooth.  It runs on the iPads battery and gets 8-10 hours of battery life (pretty efficient!).  The downside to that: Portrait playing only
  2. The Atari Arcade is scheduled to drop on October 2 at Target and then in November at Toys “R” Us and Walmart for $60.

Coming soon to DiscoveryBayGames, a new Atari controller that will go head to head with the popular iCade box.  The appliance was discovered in the Atari’s Greatest Hits update by MacRumors.

What’s New in Version 1.3

Hello Atari fans! We’ve been paying close attention to your feedback and have made a ton of improvements:

• New and improved control schemes
• OpenFeint integration
• Optimized iPad layouts with larger playfields
• Better multiplayer connectivity
• Compatibility with the Discovery Bay Games Duo Controller
• Play with the official Atari® Arcade – Duo™ Powered joystick. http://bit.ly/atariarcade



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Seth Weintraub

September 5th

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Pantech Breakout LTE and Samsung Illusion spotted for Verizon

The Samsung Illusion and the Pantech Breakout LTE have been leaked by Pocketnow. There is not much information about the Samsung Illusion aside from a single photograph, but the Verizon Wireless-bound Pantech Breakout LTE is equipped with a 4-inch WVGA display, a 5-megapixel camera, a front-facing camera for video chats, a 1GHz processor and 512MB of memory. Rumor has it the Breakout LTE will also be capable of sharing its 4G connection with up to 10 different Wi-Fi enabled devices at the same time. Prices and launch dates are still unclear but the Breakout could make its debut in the coming days and the Illusion may hit the market towards the end of September. Read on for an image of the Samsung Illusion.

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Todd Haselton

September 5th

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7 Tools to Make Going Back to the Office Suck Less [Toolkit]

Ahh, a nice three day weekend. The weather was good. You've been outdoors, active, having fun, eating well. Now you're back in your sterile, loveless office. Here are a few tools to make the transition back slightly less brutal.
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brent rose

September 5th

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Will Windows Phone Apps Run On Windows 8?

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When you look at the combined 70 percent smartphone market share of Android and Apple in the U.S. compared to Microsoft’s measly and shrinking 6 percent, it seems like it’s game over before it really began for Windows Phone. Windows Phone is a decent mobile OS, even promising, but so far it has failed to capture the hearts and minds of developers or consumers. Can Microsoft do anything to change that and will it involve tying Windows Phone more tightly to its next desktop operating system, Windows 8?

There are some clues that this is exactly what Microsoft is planning to do. When we first saw the preview videos of Windows 8, with its touch and tile-based interface, people thought immediately of Windows Phone, which has a very similar looking interface. Instead of app icons, both use tiles which can display data and images from the underlying apps without opening them. The tiles themselves become a dashboard displaying the realtime data behind every app.

Windows Phone and Windows 8 are two separate operating systems. But what if Microsoft made it really easy for Windows Phone apps to run on Windows 8 PCs? Right now, most mobile apps on Android or Apple’s iOS devices live in their own separate world from the desktop (porting apps from iOS to OS X is possible, but doesn’t seem to be a very popular practice). The link to the desktop today is usually done via the web. If Windows mobile apps had counterparts on the desktop that synced up and presented themselves as a Windows 8 app tile, that could give Windows phone an advantage currently lacking in its rivals. It also would be in line with Microsoft’s classic embrace and extend strategy, whereby it uses its dominance of the desktop to extend to other areas. That strategy may no longer work in the post-PC era, but it is still worth a try.

We will probably see all of this come together with Windows Phone 8 and Microsoft’s upcoming developer framework for Windows 8 called “Jupiter.” Just as the god Apollo was the sun of Jupiter, so too is Windows Phone 8 (codenamed Apollo) related to Windows 8. As our own Sarah Perez wrote about Jupiter:

Jupiter may end up being the “one framework” to rule them all. That means it might be possible to port the thousands of Windows Phone apps already written with Silverlight to Windows 8 simply by reusing existing code and making small tweaks. Or maybe even no tweaks. (That part is still unclear). If so, this would be a technical advantage for developers building for Windows Phone 8 (code-named “Apollo” by the way, the son of “Jupiter”) or Windows 8.

As I noted above, even if this strategy is successful in creating a ton of cool cross-platform mobile-PC apps, it is not clear that will be enough to make a difference for Windows Phone. But it definitely points to the mobile and desktop worlds converging in the not too distant future, and not just on Windows. All your mobile apps should also be available in some form on your desktop. Not the exact same apps, of course, because mobile apps are built for touch interfaces, location, and to take advantage of your phone’s hardware such as cameras and accelerometers. Desktop apps, in contrast, still need to be designed for the mouse and keyboard. But the underlying data can feed native apps on both platforms.

Over the past decade, desktop apps have given way to the web. Wouldn’t it be ironic if their popularity makes a comeback thanks to mobile apps?


Company:
MICROSOFT
Launch Date:
4/4/1974
IPO:
13/3/1986, NASDAQ:MSFT

Microsoft, founded in 1975 by Bill Gates and Paul Allen, is a veteran software company, best known for its Microsoft Windows operating system and the Microsoft Office suite of...

Learn more

Product:
WINDOWS PHONE 7
Company
Microsoft

Windows Phone 7 is the successor of the Windows Mobile 6.5 mobile operating system in development by Microsoft, scheduled for release by October 2010. Microsoft’s goal is to create...

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Erick Schonfeld

September 5th

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Chicago-Based Bidmyway Launches Hyperlocal Mobile Deals App

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Bidmyway is a newly launched local deals app operating in the Chicago market. As opposed to being a deals aggregator for more popular brands like Groupon or Living Social, the app offers exclusive deals made with local merchants.

What’s unique about Bidmyway is its interface and how the deals are presented to end users. Consumers “dial up” local deals using a click wheel reminiscent of the one found on old-style iPods.

The wheel is used to select the budget you have available for deals. Spin to select the amount, lock it in and Bidmyway shows you the best deals within a specified radius, ranked and listed on a map. You can then purchase the deal right from the mobile app itself.

It’s an interesting take on how mobile deals should work – instead of being presented with a single deal for a given geographic region, like a city, you filter a larger list of hyperlocal deals for those that are both within your budget and your vicinity. It’s a concept that could easily help users to better sort through the ever-growing number of deals available, so it’s actually somewhat of a shame (for the rest of us, at least) that Bidmyway launched as an independent deals broker, instead of an aggregator.

Bidmyway CEO John T. Shave says he believes that “hyperlocal mobile” is the future of the deals industry. It’s not a surprise, then, that he felt the need to build a new system from the ground-up, right down to the new deal-filtering mechanism.

He also notes that Bidmyway is the better option for merchants who need to launch a mobile deal immediately – for example, a restaurant having a slow night. Through the app, a retailer or small business owner can instantly offer a deal and post it, allowing them to attract customers right away, and most importantly, while those customers are out and about looking for something to do.

Although Bidmyway is available for download on iPhone and Android right now, as noted above, the only deals available are in the Chicago area (incidentally, also the birthplace of Groupon.) In the future, the company hopes to expand to other markets.

Bidmyway is owned and operated by local commerce company Elite Media Worx, which also runs the daily deals site EliteCityDeals. Elite Media Worx previously raised $1.35 million in funding back in April.



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Sarah Perez

September 5th

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Insurance Technology Company Guidewire Software Files For $100M IPO

Guidewire

Joining recent tech companies MobiTV, Angie’s List, Brightcove, and Jive; Guidewire Software, a company that develops technologies for the insurance industry, has filed its S-1. The company aims to raise as much as $100 million in a public offering under the symbol “GWRE.”

Founded in 2001, Guidewire Software provides technology software to the property, casualty, and workers compensation insurance industry. The company offers a web-based claims system that supports various lines of personal, commercial, and workers’ compensation insurance; an enterprise application for coordinating, executing, and recording transactions; and a Web-based underwriting and policy administration system for personal and commercial insurance carriers. Basically, Guidewire, which is backed by U.S. Venture Partners, Bay Partners and Battery Ventures, automates the insurance industry.

While Guidewire’s product may not be as sexy as Pandora’s music radio service or LinkedIn’s professional social network, the enterprise company is actually making major revenue and profits. Guidewire brought in a healthy $144.7 million in revenue in 2010 and $121.5 million for the nine months ended April 30, 2011. Guidewire’s net income was $15.5 million in fiscal year 2010 and $33.5 million for the nine months ended April 30, 2011. And revenue and profit has grown consecutively over the past three years.

As of July, Guidewire had 101 customers, including big brands such as Nationwide Mutual Insurance Company. According to Gartner, insurance carriers spent $4 billion on software and $10.5 billion on IT services in 2010, so Guidewire is confident that they are part of a pretty fast-growing (and revenue-rich) industry.

For the most part, this year’s IPOs have been involving companies who offer consumer-focused products and services as opposed to enterprise companies. Fusion-IO, the developer of flash- memory technology for companies, started trading in June. And Jive, which develops a social network and collaborative platform for the enterprise, just filed its S-1, and could begin trading at the end of the year at the earliest.



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Leena Rao

September 5th

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Tired of waiting, Chinese carriers undercut iPhone substantially with own handsets

Apple’s China sales are up sixfold and topped $3.8 billion in June quarter revenues. Per conventional wisdom, Apple could boost iPhone revenues by adding more carriers to its Chinese distribution matrix. But for all the cozying up to China Mobile, the country’s largest wireless operator, the second-largest China Unicom remains Apple’s sole carrier in the country. While Apple has left the 1.33 billion people market largely untapped, its iconic smartphone is now facing competition from both carriers, reports DigiTimes:

China Unicom and China Mobile both have launched own-brand 3.5G handsets using chipset solutions from MediaTek, with prices set below CNY1,000 (US$156), or one-quarter the price of iPhone, according to industry sources. The launches of own-brand 3.5G handsets will help China Unicom and China Mobile save a large of amount in subsidies the two companies have been spending for the promotion of iPhone, the sources indicated.

Granted, the report fails to mention the exact types of phones and wouldn’t event hint at whether they’re high-end smartphones or cheapos. Regardless, this is business as usual as no carrier can depend on iPhone alone. On the other hand, the report notes how both carriers are additionally pushing their own app stores. Looks like Apple will need that inexpensive iPhone sooner than later.

Reuters indicated that China Mobile was holding secret meetings with Steve Jobs regarding an iPhone version for the carrier’s 3G cellular network, which is based on TD-SCDMA radio technology (not related to CDMA technology used by Verizon). China Mobile is serving about 7.5 million iPhone users on its network, even if they can only tap EDGE speeds. Furthermore, Samsung is already shipping a TD-SCDMA version of its Galaxy S II smartphone to China Mobile subscribers. Despite the fact that China Mobile is the world’s largest carrier by both subscribers and revenue, Apple may want to wait out and instead take an alternative route, here’s why…

Bringing iPhone to China Unicom was a no-brainer due to their GSM-compatible 3G network. Contrast that to China Mobile’s TD-SCDMA network that would essentially require a new iPhone hardware with different chips. And due to its limited appeal, a TD-SCDMA would be a low volume product and hence pricier to manufacture versus the existing CDMA or GSM versions. Furthermore, China Mobile will be upgrading to 4G LTE soon and other carriers are already running limited trials of the technology. With a 4G LTE iPhone supporting any compatible network, including China Mobile’s TD-LTE variant, why bother engineering an iPhone for the already outdated technology? There’s also this Reuters report claiming that iPhone is coming to the 106 million China Telecom subscribers this November. China Telecom operates CDMA-compatible 3G network so Apple would only need to commission Pegatron to build more CDMA iPhones. China Mobile had 584 million mobile phone subscribers in December last year while China Unicom had 167.4 million.



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Christian Zibreg

September 5th

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Cupertino to hold environmental impact meeting regarding Apple’s “spaceship” campus on Thursday

This Thursday, the city of Cupertino will be holding a meeting regarding the environmental impact of Apple’s upcoming “spaceship” campus. According to the city’s website, Cupertino is preparing an environmental impact report for the new structure.

The City of Cupertino will be the lead agency and will prepare an Environmental Impact Report (EIR) for the Apple Campus 2 Project located on an approximately 176-acre site bounded by East Homestead Road on the north; properties adjacent to Tantau Avenue on the east; Interstate 280 on the south; and Wolfe Road on the west.

Thursday’s meeting is for the public to be able to bring in their own input on the project’s environmental outlook. Steve Jobs showed up at the last meeting related to the new campus, so perhaps we’ll see him at this one as well. For those not living in Cupertino, the city will be live streaming the events this Thursday, September 8, 2011 from 6:30 – 8:30 pm.



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Mark Gurman

September 5th

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