May 20 2010

Apple Opens International iPad App Store

In preparation for the international release of the iPad at the month, Apple is in the process of bringing the iPad App Store to customers outside of the United States. Previously, users had to download iPad apps through iTunes and then transfer them by sync, but with the changes, users will be able to browse and download apps from the iPad itself.

The iBooks application is still not available outside the US, though international users allegedly can use it by making a US iTunes account. Some analysts have said that there are some international readers with iPads.

Via USA News Week, image via Apple.

Apr 21 2010

Apple Removes Education App from App Store

Apple has removed an educational app from its App Store, much to the consternation of educators. The app, called Scratch Viewer, was designed to let teachers view a child’s work on an iPad, iPhone, or iPod Touch using the Scratch programming language.

Scratch was developed by the MIT Media Lab and has proved to be popular in schools. Apple has not responded to requests for comment concerning the removal of the app and the app’s author has only said that they are “negotiating the decision.” Bloggers are speculating that the app was removed due to violation of Section 3.3.1 of Apple’s policy against apps that interpret or execute code, which is the same reason why Adobe Flash apps are not allowed.

Users with Scratch Viewer could download content from the MIT lab’s servers instead of from iTunes. Though Apple will probably be criticized for this, it is important to remember that Apple is not the only company that regulates what can run on its hardware—Nintendo and Sony do too, for example.

Via New York Times.

Mar 21 2010

Apple is Accepting iPad Apps

The iPad boasts a beautiful 9.7-inch screen.

The iPad is going to be released on April 3 and almost everyone is anxiously anticipating its release, as can be seen by how frequently the iPad is appearing in tech news.

Developers must be eagerly anticipating the iPad’s release as well. There has been a surge of interest in developing apps for Apple’s App Store. Apple begun accepting app submissions for the iPad and has announced that March 27 is the deadline for submitting apps that will be available on the day of the iPad’s launch. The submitted apps will be reviewed by Apple and the developers will be contacted by email concerning their submissions.

This email feedback is important because few developers have access to actual iPads. Most have to run their creations on the SDK simulator and hope that there will not be any major problems when the apps run on actual iPads. Apps will most likely be as important to the iPad as they are to the iPhone, so how Apple handles the approval of apps for launch day is important.

Via Overclockers Club, image via Apple.

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Mar 10 2010

A Glimpse into the Inner Workings of Apple

Apple is a notoriously secretive company. Usually the rest of us have no idea about its upcoming products until they are released, and we know even less (that is, nothing) about the inner workings of the company itself.

But thanks to the cleverness of an organization, the Electronic Frontier Foundation, and the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA), the rest of us have been allowed a glimpse into the inner workings of Apple. Basically, the Electronic Frontier Foundation used FOIA to force NASA to release Apple’s nondisclosure agreement for iPhone developers. Developers have to sign the agreement before they can access the software development kit for the iPhone OS.

It does not really come as a surprise that Apple very strongly regulates what programs are allowed to run on the iPhone OS. Some analysts have expressed surprise that people are so enthusiastic about products that are so heavily regulated by their manufacturer, but they underestimate Apple’s appeal to the public.

Via Wired, image via Apple.

Feb 26 2010

Apple May Offer Explicit Section in App Store

A few days after its controversial decision to ban certain apps from the App Store, Apple may be reconsidering its position and eventually offer an “Explicit” category for apps.

Earlier this week, Apple pulled a lot of apps from the App Store, saying that they were overtly sexual. One analyst said this was to preserve its public image. But on Wednesday, developers uploading new apps noticed a new category for apps called “Explicit.” The category later disappeared. The iPhone 3G does have parental controls that would allow such a category to be blocked.

A developer reportedly called Apple and was told that it is considering the option, but not anytime soon.

Though Apple of course does have a public image to maintain, offering an “Explicit” category probably would not be such a bad thing, provided that users were asked to opt-in to it and parents could fully bar their children from seeing this category.

Via The Escapist, image via Apple.

Feb 21 2010

Apple Removes 5000 Apps from App Store

In a controversial move, Apple has removed over 5000 apps from its App Store because of their overtly sexual content. One of the developers of a banned app called Wobble allegedly spoke with Apple and was told that the following rules regarding apps:

1. No images of women in bikinis.
2. No images of men in bikinis
3. No skin.
4. No sexual connotations or innuendo.
5. Nothing that can be sexually arousing.
6. No apps will be approved that in any way imply sexual content.

Of course, Apple has not posted or verified these rules, and the developer has been trying to attract attention to Apple’s new app policy.

Personally, I am glad that Apple has instituted this new ban. It is quite annoying to be going through categories in the App Store and stumble across these ridiculous apps with sexual content in nearly every category. Perhaps Apple could have handled the situation better by moving the questionable apps to a special section of the App Store that users would have to opt-in to see. But it is nice to see that Apple actually does care about what is sold in its App Store.

Via The Unofficial Apple Weblog, image via Apple.

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Feb 19 2010

Apple Increases 3G Download Limit

Apple has raised the maximum size of app downloads on 3G to 20 MB. Analysts have said that this is in preparation for the iPad’s release because apps for the iPad are more likely to be larger to support high-resolution graphics.

Previously, users could only download apps that were fewer than 10 MB in size when using a 3G connection. Larger apps had to be downloaded with a WiFi connection. The limits were probably in place to preserve network bandwidth.

All of this begs the question of how the already-strained 3G network provided by AT&T will handle the increase in data brought by the iPad.

Via CNET, image via Apple.

Feb 15 2010

Cell Phone Providers Join Forces Against Apple

Major cell phone providers from all over the world are joining together to conspire against Apple. Okay, maybe “conspire” is too strong a word—”join together” may be a more accurate description—but you get the idea.

Announced today at the Mobile World Congress in Barcelona, the Wholesale Applications Community is made of twenty-four of the world’s largest cell phone providers, including such names as Sprint, Vodafone, and China Mobile. The idea behind this consortium is to solve the major problem facing mobile app developers today: there are too many platforms. Oh, and money is a big factor as well. Apps are very lucrative—Apple’s App Store is a case in point—and these companies do not have nearly the app sales that Apple does.

Will this idea actually work? In theory, the idea is good. But in practice, there may be too much infighting in the consortium. One company will seek to dominate the others, which will create resentment, infighting, and weaken the consortium. Also, it is very unlikely that Apple would allow itself to be outmaneuvered in such a manner. Plus, Apple is one united company that doesn’t have the infighting. The consortium is a good try by the cell phone companies, but it’s going to take more than that to offer real competition to Apple.

Via ZDNet, image via Apple.

Feb 13 2010

iPad Spurs App Store Developer Interest

Interest in developing for the App Store has almost tripled during the month of January, according to mobile analysis firm Flurry Analytics. This is the largest increase in application development in the history of Flurry’s tracking. The surge is most likely due to Apple’s much-hyped upcoming device, the iPad. There is incentive for developers to customize their applications in time for the iPad’s release.

There are more than 140,000 applications in the App Store, according to Apple. The App Store will offer apps for the iPad when it is released, including specifically customized ones that will take advantage of the iPad’s large touchscreen.

Android applications grew about 25 percent in January. Though Android applications are growing steadily, the App Store still remains far ahead of Android due to the recent spike in January.

Via AppleInsider, image via Apple.

Feb 5 2010

Apple Forces Developer to Edit App Description

In the latest move of the Apple-Google battle, Apple has banned an iPhone app developer from using the word “Android” in the description of his app in the App Store.

The Flash of Genius app, developed by Tim Novikof, was a finalist in Google’s Android Developer Challenge, a contest that honors innovative apps. Novikof wanted to mention this fact in his description of the app, but Apple did not take too kindly to this. The app was rejected and Apple said it was not appropriate to mention the app’s success in the Android Developer Challenge.

Apple has caused controversy in the past for rejecting apps, including the Google Voice app and Google Latitude app. And this week, Apple raised some eyebrows by revealing a new policy that says developers are not allowed to make apps that use location data solely for location-based ads. Apple’s policies regarding the App Store have caused quite a bit of consternation amongst analysts.

Via PC World, image via PC World.

Jan 18 2010

The $1000 iPhone App

Once I was browsing the App Store and I saw an app that cost $60. I was horrified by the very thought of such an expensive app. Most of the apps I download to my iPhone are free, or at most cost 99 cents.

It turns out that $60 is not expensive at all for an iPhone app. There is, in the App Store, an app that costs $1000. It is called BarMax CA and is designed to help law students prepare for the bar exam in California. Curiously enough, it actually may be worth its price; preparing for the bar exam by taking a class can cost $3000 or $4000.

BarMax CA is a huge app–it required over a gigabyte of space, much more than the average iPhone app. It has thousands of pages of materials and hundreds of hours of audio lectures. The developers of BarMax CA hope to release more apps for bar exam preparation in different states.

It is currently the most expensive app in the App Store, topping one $899 home security app that resides in second place.

Via The Washington Post, image via Apple.

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Jan 11 2010

Great iPhone Apps for Movie Lovers

Apple’s App Store really does have apps for nearly everything. Today, with the help of the folks at New York Daily News, we present a list of useful apps for movie lovers.

Now Playing (free): This app is great for finding out what movies are playing where. It even allows you to read reviews and synopses and watch trailers. If you have Netflix, you can add films to your queue from this app. See it here on iTunes.

Showtimes (free): This is my personal favorite movies app for the iPhone. It allows you to search for movies that are already out, as well as ones that are upcoming. It has synopses of movies, but does not have the Netflix feature that Now Playing has. View it here on iTunes.

IMDb (free): This is the iPhone app version of the popular and informative website IMDb (Internet Movie Database). It’s perfect for finding out every detail about a movie, and is a lot faster than the website. See it here on iTunes.

Rotten Tomatoes (free): The description for this app says, “Never see a bad movie again.” This¬† could be true, as Rotten Tomatoes is the premier site for finding out if a film is worth seeing or not. It’s vastly easier to use than the website on the iPhone (even on WiFi, the website is very slow). It allows you to search for movies and view new releases in theater and DVD. It’s a great app, another one of my favorites. (Here on iTunes.)

RunPee ($1.99): This is possibly the one of the strangest apps, but it does have the potential to be quite useful. It tells you when you can leave the theater during a movie to use the restroom and not miss anything important. It has time stamps and dialogue cues and even will vibrate to alert you that it’s okay to leave. (Here on iTunes.)

Via New York Daily News.

Jan 1 2010

Apple Blocks Certain iPhone Apps in China

Apple appears to be the latest US company to comply with Chinese censorship laws. According to the IDG News Service and PC World, at least five iPhone apps relating to the Dalai Lama and the Uighur leader Rebiya Kadeer are unavailable in China’s App Store.

An Apple spokeswoman said that Apple will comply with local laws and that “[n]ot all apps are available in every country.” Companies such as Microsoft, Google, and Yahoo have also censored content in China. This has brought criticism from opponents of censorship, but the companies say that they must comply with China’s laws if they want to operate in the country.

IDG News said the banned apps generate inspirational quotes from the Dalai Lama or information about Nobel Peace Prize winners. Four out of five iPhones in the Apple store in Beijing did not return any results in the App Store when the term “Dalai” was searched (one iPhone did display the applications, for some reason).

Apple lets developers choose which countries that offer their apps, but it is unlikely that the developers of the banned apps didn’t want them to be available in China. The designer of the Dalai Lama quotes app said he did not know that his app was not available in China.

Via AFP.

Jan 1 2010

Appsaurus Emerges to Compete With App Store Genius

Apple released a Genius feature for the App Store a few months ago. Like the Genius in iTunes, the application recommends apps that you are most likely to enjoy based on your previous choices. Yesterday, a new app was released in the App Store that is supposed to outsmart Apple’s Genius. It is called Appsaurus and it costs only 99 cents.

Apple’s Genius apparently does not have many advanced algorithms for determining what a particular user likes. It bases recommendations on what other users with a particular app are most likely to have, which does not work well for long-term analysis.

Appsaurus is different. Users rank apps to teach Appsaurus their preferences. It builds a profile based on an entire library of apps, not just one. Unfortunately, Appsaurus has a disadvantage: it cannot look at apps that are actually installed, which means users have to manually input their preferences.

Via The Washington Post.

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Dec 23 2009

It’s Official: Apple’s App Store Is a Huge Success

Apple’s App Store has been a huge success. It recently passed the 100,000 application milestone and is probably headed for 200,000 apps in 2010, if not more.

It has not just been a success for Apple, though – developers have benefited as well. Tapulous, a company with 20 employees that makes apps like Tap Tap Revenge, reportedly makes $1 million in sales per month just by selling apps for iPhone and iPod Touch. Apple itself takes 30 percent of what developers sell.

Tapulous is the exception rather than the rule, but there are other developers seeing great success as well.

Even so, Google is going to offer some pretty stiff competition in the form of Android Market, an app store for Google Android.

Via ChannelWeb.

Dec 15 2009

Apple Improves the App Store

One of my favorite things about Apple is how they continually improve their products, even when their products are pretty good to begin with. This weekend, Apple continued with improvements, this time in their App Store.

The background color in the App Store is now a plain white, a pleasant change from the previous silver. The app icons now have an increased size, and more screenshots of the app are included, which makes it easier to really see what the app will look like on an iPhone.

The price and Buy button are also larger, which will probably benefit developers. The description text is shorter, which could bother developers, but will benefit us consumers. I know I’d rather have to read a succinct description of an app than a very wordy description.

With these changes, Apple continues to show its innovation and commitment to customers, two attributes that any great company should have.

Via PC World.

Jan 21 2009

Apple To Continue Holding Back On Netbooks

Apple made some relevant comments this Wednesday durig a quarterly earnings call. According to Apple, netbooks still aren’t in the works – their low-powered CPUs, cramped keyboards, and limited displays aren’t in Apple style and won’t be enough to please consumers.

Of course, that isn’t a flat-out no to netbooks. While we may appear to be grasping at straws, listen first to some words by Tim Cook of Apple: “We’ve got some ideas, but right now we think the products there are inferior and will not provide the experience to customers that they’re happy with.”

Ideas are good! This isn’t the first time Apple’s hinted at its netbook ideas, so this second confirmation gives us more confidence in our hope.

MSI Wind Hackintosh

To tell the truth, everyone’s been waiting for an Apple netbook. We’ve found rumors of an Apple netbook all over the place, even some saying the Apple netbook would be a big iPhone. We know they’d suck up a lot of the netbook market. We recently heard that they were in talks about netbooks, but have heard little since. Even big-time analysts like Ezra Gottheil have thrown in their two-cents about an Apple netbook.

Yet somehow, inexplicably, Apple isn’t biting. While netbooks are “principally based on hardware,” Cook says Apple doesn’t play they game. According to him, “software is the key ingredient.” Revolutionary software has been a big attraction to Apple computing, with such tools as the App Store being a prime example.

Cook can criticize all day long, but there’s no doubting that netbook sales are still on the rise.¬† Cramped keyboards and limited screens aren’t as big of a deal when they often save you up to $1000 over a laptop with unneeded capabilities.

According to ABI Research, manufacturers will be shipping 200 million ultramobile devices, including netbooks, by 2013. This is about the same size as the worldwide laptop market.

During its quarterly earnings call Wednesday, Apple reinforced its skepticism in netbooks, saying their low-powered CPUs, cramped keyboards and small displays are not enough to satisfy customers.

I’m still interested in an Apple netbook, if they’re offering. Until that time, we wait!

Via Wired.

Dec 16 2008

Analyst Sees Apple Netbook On The Horizon

Ezra Gottheil of Technology Business Research Inc. has gotten out his crystal ball and is predicting an Apple netbook by next month’s Expo and Macworld Conference.

He was quick to offer a disclaimer. “I don’t have any inside information… this is just by triangulation.”

The weak economy has seen sales of cheap laptops and netbooks skyrocket. According to Gottheil, Apple intends to make the most of this movement. “They like to have a big surprise at MacWorld,” he said. “They don’t need to have one, but they like to.” Whereas Apple has always distrusted the netbook market, “It looks like netbooks are real, and getting a certain amount of traction. And this recession looks serious.” Gottheil thinks the next big step is a netbook from Apple.

Apple generally avoids the bottom of the market. There’s no question: iPhones and MacBooks are luxury items. It is likely that Apple doesn’t want to cannibalize sales of its Macbook by offering a more Spartan netbook version. If they do indeed enter the netbook industry, Apple’s going to want to take a different spin on it.

MacBook

This is where Gottheil’s predictions come in. In his view, Apple’s netbook will operate within a “closed system”; software will only be available through the iPhone-style App Store. Device restore will be done through iTunes, backup through some kind of online service, and add-on/peripheral choices will be strictly limited.

“By controlling the software that can be loaded and the hardware that can be attached, Apple’s device will be simpler, easier to use and more reliable than a PC, and will excel at the functions most required by users.”

Gottheil sees Apple as a company with the power to redefine the netbook category. The game with Apple netbooks will be to depart from complex, Linux-based computing and make it “dirt-simple for the user,” he said. “Macs have a good deal less hassle than PCs, but they don’t have zero hassle. To some people, they are intrinsically intimidating.”

He points to Google as a possible software supplier and Hewlett-Packard as a likely peripheral partner.

Apple Logo

Gottheil’s even gone so far as to predict some specifics about the new netbooks. He expects to see one Macbook Air-sized machine and another $599 machine that will more closely resemble current netbooks. Just as Apple opened the iPhone to third-party programs four months before the launch of the 3G iPhone, Gottheil thinks there will be a delay between the release of the two netbooks.

“I don’t necessarily expect it to be a touch screen,” he noted. “In fact, I don’t think it will. But I do think that the interface would present simple, straight-forward choices.”

It is likely that Apple will use its sustained relationship with users to up sell and cross-sell them into buying netbooks. This is why the App Store would work; even if Apple doesn’t make much from software sells it will get some big returns on applications.

App Store

Gottheil sees one downside to this program – though the point of the plan involving the App Store would be to avoid cannibalizing the MacBook, some amount will be inevitable. Jobs once commented that his company doesn’t “know how to make a $500 computer that’s not a piece of junk,” so at $599 the Apple netbooks will still be twice as expensive as the cheapest netbooks already out there.

We can only hope Gottheil’s right – an Apple netbook would mean a humongous boost in the industry. That means more competition, more innovation, and more new releases. People have been itching for an Apple netbook, with one guy going so far as to mod an MSI Wind back in November. The same thing is on everyone’s mind, so we hope Jobs is listening.

Via ComputerWorld.

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