Google announced the next version of Android, dubbed Jelly Bean, today, and it is jam-packed with new goodies for developers and consumers to play with. Google is rolling out the over-the-air Android 4.1 update in mid-July, and developers will get the software development kit Wednesday at Google I/O.
Google is trying to redefine what we think of push notifications on smartphones and change how apps are updated from the Google Play store. How do these new updates compare to iOS, Windows Phone and BlackBerry?
How Google describes it: Android 4.1 introduces improved App Widgets that can automatically resize, based on where the user drops them on the home screen, the size to which the user expands them, and the amount of room available on the home screen. New App Widget APIs let you take advantage of this to optimize your app widget content as the size of widgets changes.
A new feature in Android will be what look like responsive widgets. Users will be able to manage home screen space by dragging and dropping widgets, and all other widgets and icons on the screen will make space for them. Apple has not embraced widgets in iOS, and while Microsoft has created customizable “live tiles” for Windows Phone, they are still static boxes tied to a single homescreen. Android’s widgets are now smarter and will be easier to integrate on an Android’s variety of home screens.
Additions to Google Beam
How Google describes it: In Android 4.1, Android Beam makes it easier to share images, videos, or other payloads by leveraging Bluetooth for the data transfer. When the user triggers a transfer, Android Beam hands over from NFC to Bluetooth, making it really easy to manage the transfer of a file from one device to another.
Google continues to lead on NFC smartphone integration. With two new Beam features, Android Jelly Bean is way ahead of the competition when it comes to NFC. For instance, this is the first time we have seen NFC connect devices over a wireless connection with the ability to tap your phone to a Bluetooth device. Think about it. Instead of fumbling with your Bluetooth headset (perhaps while in the car?), you can just tap your phone to it and it would be paired. Speakers, keyboards… anything could be possible between NFC and Bluetooth.
New Google Voice Search
Google voice search… looks like Apple’s Siri but could ultimately be more robust. Apple ties its search results to particular databases and search engines like Wolfram Alpha or Yelp. Google voice search in Android ties it to the company’s robust search engine. Add responsive voice feedback and the new card-based interface, and mobile search is taking a step ahead.
New “Platform Developer Kit”
The “Platform Developer Kit” is a really smart move by Google considering its large manufacturer and partner base. You don’t often think of hardware as something that can be “opened,” but the ability to institute the very basic aspects of Android with one simple kit will make it much easier for hardware companies to start building on new versions of the platform.
Smart App Updates
How Google describes it: Smart app updates is a new feature of Google Play that introduces a better way of delivering app updates to devices. When developers publish an update, Google Play now delivers only the bits that have changed to devices, rather than the entire APK. This makes the updates much lighter-weight in most cases, so they are faster to download, save the device’s battery, and conserve bandwidth usage on users’ mobile data plan. On average, a smart app update is about 1/3 the size of a full APK update.
App encryption and smart app updates are a smart play by Google. With smart app updates, users only get the part of the app that is new, so they do not have to download the whole app again. That will help with people who have data limits on their smartphones, take a little pressure off the carriers, and make the process generally simpler for Google and developers. That is not something that other app stores do. Security companies will be able to analyze very specific parts of the apps but will need to update their Android security apps to deal with this new app update process.
Rich Push Notifications
How Google describes it: Android 4.1 brings a major update to the Android notifications framework. Apps can now display larger, richer notifications to users that can be expanded and collapsed with a pinch. Notifications support new types of content, including photos, have configurable priority, and can even include multiple actions.
Google has long been ahead in push notifications with Android. Even Apple has had to catch up, with the prime example being how Apple created a drop-down menu for notifications in iOS 5 last year. Google has now taken that a step further by making notifications not just easy to develop for, but by also integrating rich media into the drop-down menu. There are some things that iOS, BlackBerry or Windows Phone do better than Android. When it comes to notifications, Android is ahead and will continue to be ahead.
The Knight Foundation has announced six winners of the first round of this year’s Knight News Challenge. Past winners have been ambitious projects, broad in scope, many of them as part of major parent organizations in journalism. But at least in Round One, this year’s crop proposes fairly obvious ideas. It’s surprising that some of these haven’t been built already. Why is the Knight Foundation having to fund something as basic as a browsable map for live videos? There’s one clear answer: News organizations – for whatever reason – haven’t built them themselves.
This year, the foundation is holding three challenges to spur journalistic innovation in different areas. The first round, focused on networks, will award $1.37 million amongst six projects built on top of existing networks like Ustream and Twitter.
At this point in the ongoing disruption of the news business, existing networks have become entrenched as the places to distribute information. Twitter, Facebook, Ustream and YouTube not only have the critical mass of users, they also have the best mechanisms for rapidly circulating new, popular and trending content, whatever it might be.
That’s why the first round of the Knight News Challenge focuses on tools that support the delivery of news and critical information to those networks in engaging ways.
Here are the winners of Round One, announced today at the MIT-Knight Civic Media Conference:
Behavio is building a software development kit for Android to enable applications to take fuller advantage of the blanket of real-world data created by smartphones. Behavio apps will make use of phone sensors to monitor movement, behavior and surroundings. They can track communication via the phone as well as environmental factors like sound, light and motion.
Behavio wants to leverage the existing network of Android users to allow journalists and others to notice trends in community data, as well as for anyone to explore their own personal data.
One of the founders, Nadav Aharony, is a product manager for Android at Google.
Winners: Felipe Heusser and Jeff Warren
Peepol.tv (note: website is not live yet) is building a searchable, browsable map aggregating live streaming video from around the world. The high-profile protests of the last few years have demonstrated that the tools and infrastructure for live-streamed citizen journalism are basically there, but there is a range of applications and device platforms that split up the efforts and make them hard to discover.
Peepol.tv wants to be one central place for finding live video shot by anyone. It will be curated by topic and provide integration for sharing to social networks.
Winners: Caitria O’Neill, Alvin Lang and Morgan O’Neill
Recovers.org is a hub for communities to quickly launch Web portals for recovery efforts after a disaster. A community can immediately set up a
[place-name].recovers.org site as a destination for fundraising and coordinating relief work. The company licenses the software to communities that want to be prepared, but it’s free to set up a post-disaster site.
Signalnoi.se will scan social network activity in real time to find out what stories are resonating with news consumers. It doesn’t just look at keywords in headlines; it will track topics and notify editors of spikes in interest. This will help newsrooms decide which stories to cover and promote, looking at chatter about their own stories as well as those of competitors.
The Tor Project is a network that allows private, secure online communication. It was originally developed as a secure channel for the U.S. Navy, but now it’s used for confidentiality by journalists, law enforcement officers, activists and others.
Tor’s proposal to the Knight News Challenge was to build a tool kit for journalists, which will include its secure Web browser and upload tool, other communication tools and training videos.
Watchup is an iPad app for finding news videos. It speeds up discovery of important news with a curated playlist from a variety of networks. It will develop partnerships with major U.S. news organizations, and it plans to support itself with advertising.
The Next Challenge
The second round will support projects that improve the collection, visualization, understanding and usage of the vast quantities of data we produce. Applications close on June 21, and winners will be announced at the end of September. Knight hasn’t yet revealed the topic of Round Three.
Google made a couple bold statements about its upcoming Chromebook tablet, many of which have certainly excited consumers, particularly the promise of an end to security hassles. In the Chromebook launch announcement, Google claimed that “Chromebooks have many layers of security built in so there is no anti-virus software to buy and maintain. Even more importantly, you won’t spend hours fighting your computer to set it up and keep it up to date.” Sounds nice, right? Well, Trend Micro’s security consultant Rik Ferguson vigorously disagrees, claiming that the search giant risks repeating the same security mistakes Apple made.
The Google Chrome OS, which will be featured on Chromebooks from Samsung and Acer in June, touts a number of different security features, including process sandboxing (which keeps apps from interfering with each other), automatic updating, and a reversion back to the most-recent safe state when problems are detected. Plus, every app that runs on the Chrome OS will run in the browser, with the exception of browser plug-ins. But Ferguson warns that this spotless environment can’t last long, as Google has offered a Chrome OS SDK (software development kit) to create native apps, which, according to Ferguson, is the gateway to malware.
The sandboxing feature is meant to keep bad apps from infiltrating the rest of the system, but Ferguson suggests that sandboxing can’t keep everything safe. “Exploits that break out of sandboxing have already been demonstrated for Internet Explorer, for Java, for Google Android, and of course for the Chrome browser, to name a few,” Ferguson said. “While the Google sandbox is effective, it is not impenetrable and to rely on it for 100 percent security would be short-sighted.”
Ferguson maintains that Google’s engineering work is just a praise-worthy, but questions how Google could assume that a new OS would put an end to security woes. In fact, Ferguson refers to the shift to the cloud as merely “moving the goalposts” for scammers. Attackers will begin to focus on stealing authentication keys rather than data on a compromised device. “If I can infect you for one session and steal your keys, well then I’ll get what I can while I’m in there and then continue accessing your stuff in the cloud; after all, I’ve got your keys now, I don’t need your PC anymore,” Ferguson writes.
This isn’t to say that Google’s forthcoming Chromebooks won’t be wildly popular and successful, or that the OS will have more security issues than any other platform, but rather a friendly reminder that attackers innovate at the same rate as manufacturers. Security will likely always be a concern, until there are no more bad guys in the world, and to ignore such a thing is (in the words of Ferguson) “short-sighted.”
[via The Register]
Today at the Microsoft Mix event, an annual showcase of its latest web and mobile technologies, Microsoft announced an SDK (software development kit) for its motion-controlled gaming system Kinect. After launching in November 2010 on the Xbox, Kinect became the fastest selling electronic device ever last year – eclipsing the iPad in units sold. News of the Kinect SDK for Windows first came out in January and today Microsoft announced that will be released in spring. The SDK will enable third party software to hook into Kinect – in other words, Kinect becomes a platform.
Nobody can accurately predict what apps will successfully use Kinect technology, but Microsoft showed a glimpse of the possibilities today with a Kinect-controlled armchair. What’s most intriguing though is the probability that Kinect will become integrated into Microsoft’s Windows OS and lead to the Next Big Thing in web user experience.
It’s easy to dismiss the Kinect armchair as a gimmick. Also, do we really need a chair that makes us even more lazy? Cue our future selves, as depicted in the Disney-Pixar movie Wall-E. But the technology behind the chair is really intriguing.
We’re currently running a series about the evolution of the user experience in the post-PC world. The touchscreen is the primary user interface for a lot of these developments, thanks to the popularity of the iPhone and other smartphones that came after it. The Kinect SDK opens up the possibility that the next wave of innovation in user experience could come from motion controls, including gestures and sensors. Microsoft recently released details of “the guts” of Kinect technology, which shows just how sophisticated the technology is.
Kinect could well become an integral part of the Windows Operating System in the near future. Gesture controls will likely become as important as mouse controls in Windows. Indeed, at some point they will probably usurp the mouse. Anyone who’s seen Minority Report can easily visualize that.
At the very least, Kinect will be an important part of the Internet of Things in the near future. Imagine controlling the Internet-connected devices in your house – which soon will be everything from your fridge to your TV – using gestures. This is the kind of future that the Kinect SDK could eventually bring to reality. Developers have already been experimenting with motion-controlled concepts, so the SDK will make that exploration even easier.
It’s important to note, however, that when Microsoft releases the Kinect SDK in spring, it will be restricted to use on non-commercial applications only. Also it will only run on Windows 7, the latest version of the Windows OS. So, initially at least, commercial and non-Windows apps cannot be created.
Microsoft is likely working out a way to license the technology, which may well be as a part of the next major Windows OS release. It obviously wants to make money from the Kinect technology, so releasing it on a non-commercial basis buys them some time to work out how to do that.
Let us know in the comments any ideas that you have for using the Kinect SDK.
Novell has announced the general availability of Mono for Android today, the solution that lets developers use Windows technologies like C# and .NET to build Android applications. We previously reported on Mono for Android’s launch in January of this year, when the preview program opened up for testing after the biggest bugs had been fixed.
Now, Novell is licensing the platform commercially, starting at $399 per developer per year.
Mono for Android complements Novell’s MonoTouch project, released in 2009, which allows developers to build apps for Apple iOS devices using the same programming languages – C# and .NET. Developers using both platforms can now save time by sharing code between iPhone, iPad, iPad Touch, Android (phones and tablets), plus of course, Windows Phone 7, Windows PCs and Windows Servers.
Included with Mono for Android is the core Mono runtime, bindings for native Android APIs, a Visual Studio 2010 plugin and an SDK (software development kit) containing the tools developers need to build, debug and deploy their apps. Plus, with an included add-in, MonoDevelop users can develop on OS X. (MonoDevelop is an open source C# and .NET development environment for Linux, Mac OS X and Windows).
In addition to the $399 Professional Edition license, an Enterprise Edition is also available for $999 per year, which includes enterprise deployments, maintenance and updates. There’s also a five-developer Enterprise license which is $3,999 per year. Existing MonoTouch users can take 50% off their purchase of Mono for Android for a limited time, says Novell.
You can learn more about Mono for Android here, check out the installation guide, tutorials, the API, the API Design, Mono for Android’s architecture and the list of class libraries that are part of Mono for Android.
In a recent Nielsen report for US mobile display advertising, 4INFO tallied more than 63 million uniques for the month of September, or roughly 75% of the market. That put them in second place, ahead of Microsoft’s Extended Ad Network, Quattro, AdMob and Jumptap. Millennial was number one with 72 million uniques.
With a reach of 63 million per month, 4INFO’s mobile display business has now eclipsed the company’s original bread and butter: SMS advertising. Its SMS ad network touches roughly 45 million per month.
Founded in 2005, the mobile advertising company has dominated the SMS ad space, with roughly 3,000 publishers on its msgHaven platform. This publishing platform, which allows clients to manage the content and delivery of their SMS campaign, delivers roughly 400 million text messages per month.
And yet for all the success with SMS, 4INFO’s CEO, Zaw Thet has been trying to reshape the company as a one-stop shop for all of mobile advertising.
Now, no one would call 4INFO the king of mobile just yet, but Thet has made significant strides in 2010, picking up Butter in June (a startup that creates customized mobile solutions), fleshing out AdHaven, its mobile ad management platform, and leveraging its SMS relationships.Â Explaining the recent jump in display advertising uniques, Thet says the company has made progress by “moving up the stack from the existing SMS relationships we have with the top publishers and media companies in the US and signing new platform deals.”
This Tuesday, the company is also rolling out a new version of AdHaven, which will provide a more comprehensive suite of mobile advertising tools. Beyond display and SMS ad management, the platform will feature full support for in-app rich media, video and a software development kit.
An anonymous reader writes “Nokia has released their unified Qt-based SDK for cross-platform development for Symbian and MeeGo (plus Maemo) devices. The blurb reads: ‘Today sees the release of the Nokia Qt SDK, a single easy-to-use software development kit (SDK) for Symbian and Meego application development. Developers can now develop, test and deploy native applications for Nokia smartphones and mobile computers. The beta version of the SDK is available for download from today, ready for developers to kick off development for new devices including the just announced Nokia N8.’”
Barence writes “Speaking exclusively to PC Pro, Eugene Kaspersky has claimed Apple has repeatedly refused to deliver the software development kit necessary to design security software for the phone. “We have been in contact for two years with Apple to develop our anti-theft software, [but] still we do not have permission,” said Kaspersky. Although he admits the risk of viruses infecting the iPhone is “almost zero”, he claims that securing the data on the handset is critical, especially as iPhones are increasingly being used for business purposes. “I don’t want to say Apple’s is the wrong way of behaving, or the right way,” Kaspersky added. “It’s just a corporate culture — it wants to control everything”.”