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Archives: March 2010

WePay: The PayPal Payment System for Groups

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wepay LogoIf you’re raising funds for any kind of real-life group, event or project, you might already know that it isn’t easy to manually manage and track funds with PayPal and other similar web-based payments providers, let alone allow members to view financial details. If that’s the sort of feature set you’re looking for, WePay might be what you’re looking for.
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Could Numbers Be The Killer App For Tablets?

While today we mostly think of Apple in terms of the iPhone, iPod, or Macintosh, Apple can also lay claim to giving birth to the personal computer industry with the Apple II. What might be overlooked is that it took the work of a couple of students at the Harvard Business School to help turn the computer from a hobbyist’s device to a coveted business tool. In 1978 Dan Bricklin and Bob Frankston wrote a program that became known as VisiCalc, which was the first spreadsheet, and it ran only on the Apple II.

Once accountants and business analysts discovered how quickly VisiCalc could perform tedious calculations, they had to have the “VisiCalc machine.” Enough people bought Apple IIs for the sole purpose of running VisiCalc that it caught the attention of IBM and spurred them on to developing their own personal computer. VisiCalc is considered to be the first of what are called “killer apps“, applications with functionality that compel people to buy hardware just to run the application.

I recalled this bit of history as I read James Kendrick’s blog post on spreadsheet data entry on tablet computers. James’ point is that Apple has done a better job of developing a spreadsheet for tablet computers than Microsoft. When you watch the Numbers section of Apple’s iPad Guided Tour videos, you will see how easy it is to use the on-screen keyboard to enter data into a spreadsheet. The keyboard is smart enough to change into different forms depending on the type of data being entered. For example, you see large buttons in the standard numeric keyboard layout for entering numeric data into a cell.

Spreadsheets are still pervasive in business, though the complexity of desktop computers can sometimes relegate the manipulation of spreadsheets to specialists who know how to productively use the software. I wonder how many senior managers will see how easy it could be for them to work with spreadsheets on an iPad and decide they just have got to have one? In the words of Yogi Berra, “this is like deja vu all over again.”

iPhone On Verizon, What Could It Mean?

Back in 2007 when the iPhone first launched on AT&T Wireless, it was not unique for a new mobile phone to be exclusively sold by one carrier for a period of time. What has been unique about the Apple and AT&T partnership is the length of time of that exclusivity, which provides Apple with unprecedented control over the iPhone and how it was sold. Users have benefited from that deal through Apple’s ability to directly push software updates to the phone (see exhibit A the Verizon/Droid fiasco), keep “crapware” off the phone, and sell the phone directly in both their online and retail stores.The deal has also hurt users by restricting them to a carrier who’s network does not provide the best service, causing people to suffer with frequently dropped calls or no data network availability.

For the last two years there has been great anticipation of Apple selling a version of the iPhone that will run on other U.S. carrier’s networks, with most people expecting the second provider to be Verizon. As recently as March 30, 2010 there was a new report in the Wall Street Journal of a CDMA iPhone becoming available in the fall of 2010. The Wall Street Journal notes how dependant AT&T is on the iPhone, who has 43% of all U.S. smartphone users on their network.

The common assumption is that a Verizon version of the iPhone would be a huge blow to AT&T. However, there may be a few reasons why the exodus from AT&T may not be so severe. One is that Apple might launch a new version of the iPhone on AT&T at the beginning of the summer, as they have done in the past. If it is compelling enough, people may decide to re-up their AT&T contracts (no doubt AT&T would subsidize the new iPhone for another 2 year committment) or sign new contracts, just to have the new phone. Another thing that could happen is that AT&T could significantly lower their prices. For example, what if AT&T offered a significantly lower monthly price for unlimited data for the iPhone? Finally, keep in mind that AT&T has been improving their network, and those people who get good service from AT&T would not have a compelling reason to jump over to Verizon.

Another interesting question about a possible move of the iPhone from AT&T to Verizon is, what will be the impact on Android? Mobility Digest suggests that Android could lose the gains they have been making in smartphone marketshare. The majority of Android sales have been for the Motorola Droid on Verizon, and Mobility Digest points out that since the Droid is the most compelling touchscreen smartphone on Verizon’s network, people who want to use a touchscreen smartphone on Verizon almost have no choice but to get a Droid. A Verizon iPhone means that now people who want a smartphone on Verizon can chose one that is not running Android. If this line of thinking is true, it will be interesting to see how well the Google Nexus One does on Verizon.

Of course, the iPhone and Android are not the only two smartphones on the market. While Blackberries have lost some marketshare, they remain the best smartphones with physical keyboards and many people find they must have a keyboard. Microsoft’s Windows Phone 7 is a bit of a wild card because while it has received favorable reviews, the reviews are in the context of the current incarnation of the iPhone. What happens if iPhone OS 4.0 changes the game again? I expect that AT&T will be one of the first big sellers of Windows Phone 7 devices in hopes of filling the void of losing iPhone sales. By the fall we could see the defacto top two smartphone platforms, iPhone and Android, going head to head on the same wireless network. What that means is that any questions about which is better will be determined by consumers rather than pundits.

It Really Did Happen, Android 2.1 Now Being Pushed To Droids

As a follow-up to a post that I wrote yesterday, Motorola Droid users are very happy to know that the long-awaited 2.1 update for Android is in fact being pushed to Droids by Verizon. Verizon is pushing the update in waves, but Droid owners who don’t want to wait can manually update their phones manually following some simple instructions. From a quick search on Twitter on the word “droid,” it appears that the updates have been pretty smooth and overall everyone is pleased.

For those who don’t understand all the fuss, this update enables Droid users to have the functionality that Nexus One users have enjoyed from day one. The features include:

- Pinch-to-zoom in the browser, photo gallery, and Google Maps

- The new weather and news widget

- Support for voice-to-text entry in any text input field

- Live Wallpapers

- Support for Yahoo Mail

DoubleTwist Integrates With Android Market

I have written several posts about different apps and web sites that provide better access to the Android Market from desktop computers. Today I learned that DoubleTwist is incorporating the Android Market into their media manager program. DoubleTwist provides the functionality of Apple’s iTunes for non-Apple devices. While the latest buzz about this product is with Android, it also works with Blackberries, and the Palm Pre.

DoubleTwist mimics iTunes in every way. It scans your PC for music, pictures, and video and will then synchronize that media with an Android phone. The music store functionality is provided by Amazon, and you can buy music directly within DoubleTwist and have it stored in the DoubleTwist library. A recent update to DoubleTwist added the ability to subscribe to podcasts and synchronize them to your phone. The remaining piece to the puzzle was to add an App Store, and a beta of an upcoming release shows that functionality will be provided by a front end to the Android Market. What I cannot tell is whether DoubleTwist will provide a different store for Blackberry users, or if this feature will only be available for Android phones.

App purchases and downloads are not done directly within DoubleTwist. Instead, the program provides the ability to browse the Android Market and presents a QR code for each application. You can then snap a picture of the QR code to install the application using the Android Market on your phone. DoubleTwist is currently available as a free beta for both Windows and OS X and is available for download from their web site.

iPhone to Support eBooks Too?

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Somebody want to take a stab at explaining this screenshot? Notice the category between “TV Shows” and the emusic playlist? It says “Books”! The shot is from this blogger’s iTunes, into which the official eBookNewser iPhone was plugged. This is iTunes 9.1, the new version that supports eBooks. While the books icon showed up under the iPhone, iTunes wouldn’t allow eBooks to be dragged and dropped onto the phone.

What do you all think? Is eBook support coming to iPhone soon too? Is this just a messup? Is iBooks for iPhone on the horizon?

Unvarnished: The Evil Side of Social Media?

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Unvarnished LogoRemember that time when you had a very vocal disagreement with someone at work, or with a client, and you hoped it would go away and time would heal any rifts or at least neutralize them? Well that might not happen if people were to abuse a site like Unvarnished. Did something not so professional that peeved someone? Messed up a big project? All that information might just appear on Unvarnished, courtesy of some “anonymous” posting.
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Bing Maps' Foursquare Everywhere App Plots Where You Check-In


Previously, it was reported that Microsoft is teaming up with one of the most popular, if not that most popular location-aware service Foursquare by integrating Bing Maps into Foursquare. Now, that team up has produced this new app called Foursquare Everywhere.

Foursquare Everywhere is a Bing map application that plots all the check-ins of Foursquare members. Yes, you read it right folks, all your Foursquare check-ins are now being plotted to Bing Maps through this app. But don’t worry, the check-in data that are being plotted on Bing Maps won’t display anything about you. The app is interested only with the numerous check-ins that Foursquare members are making from their mobile phone. Read more

Pay For Your Starbucks Addiction With Your iPhone

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Starbucks CardIf you’re addicted to Starbucks and have an iPhone, you can now pay for your caffeine-related purchases through the company’s iPhone app. Called Starbucks Card Mobile, the app has actually been in limited availability since last Fall at 16 standalone stores, and now lets you pay for cafe purchases at over 1,000 Starbucks-within-Target locations in the U.S.
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More About This Crazy WePad Thing

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While the buzz over here about iPad is building to a frenzy, they’re got other ideas in Germany. We reported a little while ago about the WePad, a German-engineered tablet device that does a lot of what the iPad does and some other stuff. Well, now Germany publisher periodical Gruner + Jahr is endorsing the WePad and paying the iPad no mind.

TFTS reports on the recent Gruner + Jahr press event at which the company tooted WePad’s horn. But here’s the most juicy tidbit, about Random House:

An interesting (and unreported) note–Random House is the only of the “Big Six” book publishers who hasn’t signed a deal to put their books on the iPad, citing Apple’s control over the book store. Random House is owned by Bertelsmann, and Bertelsmann also owns a majority stake in G+J. Definitely not a coincidence.

Ooh! These tablet computers are making enemies of everyone.