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Will Android Music Players Threaten The iPod?

Apparently Samsung is rumored to be releasing a music player based upon Android which will be similar to the iPod Touch.

Samsung has announced a new Android-based Galaxy Player that will be showcased next week at the CES 2011. Samsung says the new music player takes inspiration from its successful Galaxy S phone and is spec’d similarly sans the cellular connectivity. (Samsung Hub)

With Google releasing a music app for Android (as shown in the video below), it looks like Apple’s rein over the digital players may soon be coming to an end.

While I have no doubt that Samsung’s Galaxy Player will sell millions (and will probably be copied by other Android manufacturers), it’s presence may not threaten Cupertino’s iPod (at least not entirely) due to a couple of factors. More →

Verizon Launching 4G Android Phone?

htc thunderbolt Verizon Launching 4G Android Phone?Despite boasting the “most reliable network” (as their numerous TV commercials boast), Verizon has yet to produce a killer phone for their 4G service like Sprint has done with the Evo 4G.

In 2011 however that may all change as rumors are surfacing about a mysterious Android phone going by the name of “Thunderbolt” after an ad (to a broken link) appeared upon Android Central.

Click the ad, and you’re taken to a page that doesn’t actually work. Oops.

But look at the URL (emphasis ours). http://www.htc.com/4G?extcid=Thunderbolt-4G-Disp. So Thunderbolt (or maybe Thunderbolt 4G) definitely is in play, and we should see it announced on Verizon Jan. 6 at CES in Las Vegas.

Thus far there is no other details regarding the device, although I wouldn’t be surprised if HTC was attempting to release another “iPhone killer” (as their last 4G phone not surprisingly fell short).

With Verizon expected to inherit the iPhone this spring, HTC is probably attempting to ramp up interest in their device before the media predictably becomes obsessed with iOS, although hopefully they will provide more details at CES (like price, specs, Android version, etc.) instead of teasing everyone with broken 404 links.

Google’s Other Social Network Mimics Facebook

orkut Googles Other Social Network Mimics FacebookAlthough fairly unknown within the US and Europe, Google’s other social network orkut is just as popular in India as Facebook is within America.

Over the Christmas holidays the orkut team rolled out a minor update to the social network which should help them compete against Facebook (who has gained tremendous popularity upon the Asian sub continent).

Have you ever wanted to comment when your orkut homepage shows that a friend you haven’t seen in a while just got married? Or maybe when someone you know just got to a new phase in a game you really like as well?

So have we! And we’re now happy to tell you that now you can comment on virtually any update coming from your friends on orkut, such as when a friend joins a new community or changes his relationship status[.] (Official orkut Blog)

Truth be told this update should have been rolled out from the very beginning (note: I was a huge orkut fan way back in the day), although might help the social network retain its prominence within India whose enormous market share dwarfs places like America.

Despite failing to gain popularity in the US, orkut is probably Google’s best shot at thwarting Facebook’s rise globally (at least in the east), and hopefully the search engine giant continues to pour resources into orkut instead of axing it like Google Wave.

Skype Compensating Users For Downtime

In what has probably been one of the worst downtimes in the history of Skype (perhaps rivaling that of even Tumblr’s outage), it looks like the VoIP king is slowly bringing its services back online.

While this outage could not have come at the worst time (during the holidays nonetheless), it looks like loyal customers will be compensated for the outage that has affected millions of users.

It’s taken some time to do, but we’re making steady progress. To put things in perspective, there are now around 16.5 million people online on Skype around the world. This is about 80% of what we’d normally expect to see at this time of day.

We’ve stabilised Skype’s core functionality – IM, audio and video – but it will take longer for us to restore offline IM and group video calling. It’s been a tough 24 hours for many of you – and I’d like to thank you for your patience as we bring Skype back to normal.

I realise that it’s difficult to compensate you for not being able to talk to or see your friends, family or colleagues, but we’re planning to offer Skype Credit vouchers to all of our loyal paying customers to thank you for your continued support. (Official Skype Blog)

Skype has yet to reveal how much compensation users will receive (as well as when the credits will role in), but either way it’s good to see Tony Bates (the CEO of Skype) explaining the issue via video to users who are obviously not pleased with the inability to contact their loved ones.

The VoIP king plans on updating more users via Twitter (@Skype) as well as blogging, although users can also report problems to @PeterAtSkype (who has been keeping everyone updated regarding the downtime).

Will Carrier Billing Help Android Appeal To More Developers?

android robot logo2 Will Carrier Billing Help Android Appeal To More Developers?It looks like iOS developers will have yet another incentive to sell their apps upon Android after Google announced that the long awaited carrier billing feature is now live for AT&T customers.

Today, I am pleased to announce the availability of AT&T Direct Carrier Billing for Android users on the AT&T network. AT&T Android users can now easily charge their Android Market purchases to their monthly accounts with only a few clicks. With the combination of Android Market’s new app discovery features and a carrier-backed frictionless payment method, users will find it significantly easier to discover and purchase applications of their choice. [...]

We strongly believe carrier billing is a great way to make it easy for users to purchase and pay for applications. In addition to the availability of AT&T and T-Mobile US carrier billing, we’ll continue to partner with more carriers to offer carrier billing options for their subscribers. (Android Developers Blog)

Despite Android’s massive success (as one can tell by Steve Jobs loathing of the OS), Google’s mobile OS has not had as much luck in attracting premium developers, especially those upon iOS.

Since not everyone has (or wants) a Paypal or Google Checkout account, utilizing carrier billing should make it easier for developers to generate revenue off of their applications, which may convince iOS developers looking to expand their product to seriously give Android a hard look.

This could translate into Android not only matching iOS in the number of quality applications, but also help them surpass Apple in the number of total apps as well.

Wikileaks Documents Now 100% Accessible

wikileaks 130x300 Wikileaks Documents Now 100% Accessible Despite all the controversy surrounding Wikileaks, the whistle blowing organization has only released a fraction of the files available to them to the public, creating an on going nightmare for the US State department who thus far has been unable to shut down the site.

Unfortunately for the US government, it looks like a Norwegian newspaper has secured access to all 250,000 cables minus the encryption, which means that world may soon hear more embarrassing secrets contained in the documents.

In cooperation with Svenska Dagbladet, Aftenposten has so far had access to about 2000 documents, which until now has been the background for the issues Aftenposten published. Ole Erik Almlid, news editor of Aftenposten, says it has worked a long time to access the documents to the newspaper.

- We have worked long to get the documents, but it would be wrong of me to tell who is the source. We have not paid for the material, which we have gained access to no conditions. It is we who decide what to publish and how we should handle it, “he said. (Aftenposten)

While other news organizations have received access to the files, most of those were encrypted, giving Wikileaks control over the speed (and sometimes type) of information leaked to the public.

Despite their eyes being able to view all of the cables unrestricted, the news organization is promising to not release information that can endanger individuals lives or expose private information about specific individuals.

They will however report on news deemed interesting to the public, which could spell more embarrassment for the US State Department.

(Hat Tip: RWW)

Android Embraces The Final Frontier

Not content at helping private companies land rovers upon the Moon, Google recently sent several Nexus S devices  into the stratosphere and was able to capture a humorous video of their mascot becoming lost in space.

Recently, we travelled to Ione, CA and sent seven payloads up, up, and away into near space, each equipped with a Nexus S. We took some cues from others who have sent homemade weather balloon rigs far up, and we wanted an opportunity to collect some interesting data about the sensors in Nexus S – GPS, gyroscope, accelerometer, and magnetometer. We also couldn’t resist what looked like a great way to spend a weekend. Sending the balloons up also gave us an opportunity to capture some stunning imagery and videos of Earth. (Google Mobile Blog)

Previously an iOS fans was able to send his iPhone 4 into space via weather balloon, although Google’s attempt might be the first time a company officially sent over half a dozen smartphones to embrace the final frontier.

It will be interesting to see if other companies (like Microsoft) attempt similar feats in order to raise publicity of their device, although truth be told the space geek in me is hoping that Google will consider sending one of these devices beyond Earth orbit (or even better land an Android device upon the Moon).

Windows Phone 7 Gaining Momentum?

windowsphone7image Windows Phone 7 Gaining Momentum?After many weeks of speculation, Microsoft has finally revealed the sale numbers of their Windows Phone 7 smartphone which has been heavily promoted by carriers online as well as off.

They also were able to confirm how much developers are in love with Windows Phone 7 as one can tell by the size of their app marketplace.

What we see as well is that people like the new design and the different approach that we’ve taken. On the developer side, our tools are really good and leverage the skills they already have. Developers are validating that the tools make it easy to make great apps and games quickly – we have more than 4,000 apps in our marketplace. With more pouring in daily, this is an enviable pace for any new platform. [...]

Another is phone manufacturer sales – phones being bought and stocked by mobile operators and retailers on their way to customers. We are pleased that phone manufacturers sold over 1.5 million phones in the first six weeks, which helps build customer momentum and retail presence. (Microsoft News Center)

Note: Emphasis mine.

Windows Phone 7′s app store numbers are impressive, especially considering the fact that they are competing for the attention of developers, most who have limited time and resources to dedicate towards mobile platforms.

Although Microsoft still has a long ways to go before they will catch up to iOS and Android, they should easily surpass Blackberry by next year (which isn’t good news for RIM).

As far as their sale numbers go, I have to agree with RWW that sales to manufacturers do not equal consumer sales, which means that this figure at best is a little misleading.

A far better measurment would be activations, which both Google and Apple are using to determine adoption rate for Android as well as iOS devices, respectively.

Activation amounts aside, the fact that Microsoft has actually convinced carriers to buy over a million Windows Phone 7 devices is impressive nonetheless.

Google: Android Security Is No Myth

android robot logo2 Google: Android Security Is No MythWith Google’s Nexus S now available to the masses, the search engine giant’s favorite smartphone has been facing some criticism over the fact that the mobile OS can be easily rooted (or hacked for you non-geeks), making the device insecure.

Not desiring to let this myth fester unopposed, Google decided to take on the critics by enlightening them on how Android is designed.

The Nexus S, like the Nexus One before it, is designed to allow enthusiasts to install custom operating systems. Allowing your own boot image on a pure Nexus S is as simple as running fastboot oem unlock. It should be no surprise that modifying the operating system can give you root access to your phone. Hopefully that’s just the beginning of the changes you might make. [...]

Android has a strong security strategy, backed by a solid implementation. By default, all Android applications are sandboxed from each other, helping to ensure that a malicious or buggy application cannot interfere with another. All applications are required to declare the permissions they use, ensuring the user is in control of the information they share. And yes, we aggressively fix known security holes, including those that can be used for rooting. Our peers in the security community have recognized our contribution to mobile security, and for that, we are extremely grateful. (Android Developers Blog)

Google goes on to explain that unlike their Nexus S, rooting a device is not a feature, but rather a user exploiting a weakness within the device in order to gain deeper access to the mobile OS.

Unlike many other smartphones (including heavily customized ones running Android), the Nexus S is designed with rooting in mind to make it easier for users to modify their phones instead of locking it down (something manufactures and carriers prefer to do).

Although it’s great to see Google taking a stand in favor of granting users greater access to their phones, the company will probably need to make a greater effort to convince more developers that building upon Android is safe (which could help convince a few iOS developers to finally port their apps upon Android).

Is Google Voice Trying To Starve Out Skype In 2011?

googlevoice 300x225 Is Google Voice Trying To Starve Out Skype In 2011?Despite launching Google Voice within Gmail, Google is still playing second fiddle to the VoIP king (aka Skype).

While Google has yet to launch a full fledged VoIP client of their own (as Google Voice currently lacks a softphone client), the search engine giant has decided to decline charging US users in 2011 for contacting numbers within America.

When we launched calling in Gmail back in August, we wanted it to be easy and affordable, so we made calls to the U.S. and Canada free for the rest of 2010. In the spirit of holiday giving and to help people keep in touch in the new year, we’re extending free calling for all of 2011.

In case you haven’t tried it yet, dialing a phone number works just like a regular phone. Look for “Call phone” at the top of your Gmail chat list and dial a number or enter a contact’s name. (Google Voice Blog)

Currently Skype (as well as other VoIP companies) provide users with unlimited calling through annual premium plans which allow them to call mobile devices or landlines without paying for usage by the minute.

Although Skype does have a few advantages over its smaller rival (multi-video chat, Facebook integration, etc.), competing against a quality free service will be difficult to for Skype, especially considering the fact that Google has very deep pockets.

While Google Voice is obviously sacrificing short term profits for growth, 2011 could be the year that Google dethrones Skype in America, helping the search engine giant compete against the VoIP king later on upon the global stage.