A leaked preview of upcoming Android 3.0 release (aka Honeycomb) dropped last week on the Android developers’ YouTube channel. We certainly noticed, and of course the scrutiny of the drastically different UI began shortly thereafter.
Google’s official preview video (above) provides us with the most in-depth look we’ve seen of the OSsince Google’s VP of engineering Andy Rubin gave us a sneak peek of it in December. It’s too preliminary to make any absolute judgments, but from what little we’ve gleaned from the video, there are a number of pretty big changes. It’s a complete interface makeover.
The most notable change is Google’s emphasis on Honeycomb being “built entirely for tablets,” rather than a scaled-up version of an existing, smartphone-optimized Android OS release.
After Apple’s runaway success with its 2010 debut of the iPad, expectations on tablet offerings from competing companies in 2011 have been high. And at last week’s Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas, there was certainly no dearth of new tablet debuts. Estimates of the number of new tablets showcased at CES ranged in the 50s to the 80s. From what we understand, the Honeycomb operating system has been designed to take advantage of the tablet shape in particular.
What hasn’t been made clear yet, however, is whether or not Honeycomb will be a tablet-exclusive version, or whether it will also be available for phones.
Android UI director Matias Duarte speaks to the issue, however effusively, in an interview with Engadget: “What you see in Honeycomb is absolutely the direction for Android,” Duarte says when directly asked about portability.
It’s a non-answer, and I doubt we’ll know more until closer to the time that “Ice Cream,” Honeycomb’s eventual successor, is released.
From what we can see in the new video, Duarte’s influence on the new UI is palpable. He came to Google in May from HP-owned Palm, where he developed the webOS interface for Palm devices, seen below:
Duarte’s scrollable page widgets from the webOS interface above are reminiscent of those seen on Honeycomb in the recent video from Google:
The Rubin demo screen shot and the screen above grab from Google’s leaked video share the same minimalist aesthetic, even more so than “Froyo” version 2.2 seen on Samsung’s Galaxy Tab (an OS which Duarte had no part in creating).
Surface area is obviously greater when moving from a 4-inch smartphone screen to that of a 10-inch tablet, and the scrollable Gmail, calendar and browser bookmark widgets sitting side-by-side simultaneously make good use of the increase in screen size.
Another stark difference: the complete lack of physical buttons on the device itself. “With Honeycomb,” says Duarte in the Engadget interview, “you don’t need to have physical buttons.” Note their complete absence in the wide shot of the Xoom:
Instead, physical navigational buttons have been replaced with on-screen versions of themselves, as seen in the arrows in the Xoom’s bottom left-hand corner, while the full app menu is still accessible in the upper right-hand corner:
But manufacturers aren’t beholden to buttonless devices. “Our partners can take that and do what they want with it,” Duarte says in the Engadget interview. “If somebody feels that, for their application, physical buttons are absolutely the right thing to do? Great. They can do that.”
Other app demos in the video seemed relatively straightforward, with heavier emphasis on their tablet application. Google Books leverages the tablet’s shape for page-turning and reading purposes, much like opening an iBook on the iPad. Gmail interactivity remains similar to its “Gingerbread” application — scrollable inbox, no-frills white-and-gray color scheme — but is now separated into two columns for navigability’s sake.
Google isn’t saying much about Honeycomb, outside of what’s been shown in the video, and after recent rumors circulating about the release of Honeycomb successor-to-be Ice Cream, it’s doubtful that the company will begin to talk until it’s good and ready.
Until then, our eyes will be glued to YouTube for the next leak.
Authored by Mike Isaac of Wired.com
Photos: Courtesy of Motorola and Palm
Authored by MG Siegler of Techcrunch and can be found here: http://is.gd/khkNC
Breaking news: old school publishers seem hell-bent on insuring their content doesn’t catch on in the red-hot tablet space. A story in the Wall Street Journal this evening details how Google, Apple, Amazon and others are all racing to try to do deals with major publishers in order to set up their “digital newsstands”.
Of course, all of this has been going on for months now as publishers seem to be aware that tablets (okay, really just the iPad so far) are actually taking off this time, and they’d be wise to get on board. The problem, naturally, is that they want to be on board on their terms. And those, naturally, are old school terms. In other words, out-of-date and somewhat sleazy terms.
Here’s one main blurb of the WSJ piece:
Apple is planning to share more data about who downloads a publisher’s app, information publishers can use for marketing purposes. According to people familiar with the matter, Apple would ask consumers who subscribe to an iPad version of a magazine or newspaper for permission to share personal information about them, like their name and email address, with the publisher.
Some publishers remain unhappy with this arrangement because they think few customers would opt to share such data, according to these people.
So what the publishers seem to be demanding is that Apple opts users into sharing information without telling them. Or, to put it another way, “make it opt-out or we opt-out”. Classy.
Of course few customers would opt-in to sharing such data. Because who the hell wants to be marketed to relentlessly just because they signed up for a magazine subscription? No one. Except that’s the way the magazine subscription model currently works. Not because it’s a good model, but because in the days before technology started destroying print, people were naive enough not to realize what was going on. Obviously, the publishers would like to transition that happiness in slavery to the tablet space.
And while Apple doesn’t appear to be biting on that at this time, the publishers apparently are turing their sights towards chief rival Google. From the piece:
In recent weeks, these people say, Google has told publishers it would take a smaller slice on any sales they make of Android apps than the 30% cut Apple typically takes on iTunes sales. Google has also proposed giving publishers certain personal data about app buyers to help with marketing related products or services.
It’s not clear if in the Google scenario this would be opt-in (like Apple is proposing) or opt-out. But if Google wants to secure these deals ahead of Apple, it’s pretty clear what they’ll have to do. Hopefully they won’t do that.
Apple is also apparently on the verge of a new feature in iTunes that would allow for publishers to offer simple content subscription services. This too has been rumored for some time, and makes a lot of sense. After the initial interest wore off, it seems that most magazine apps are dwindling in sales numbers. The reason for this is obvious: they’re far too much money and too much of a pain to download. To get Time each week, you have to pay $4.99 each time. There is no subscription option. Others, like Newsweek, do have a subscription option, but it’s a bit convoluted. And others, like the Wall Street Journal, have an option (their own) that’s even more convoluted.
In order for the digital newsstand idea to work, it has to actually be a newsstand. As in, a centralized place where you can find and buy anything you’re looking for with a few easy clicks. You know, like iTunes. The stand-alone app model isn’t working for this content. But the publishers are wary of iTunes because they don’t want to give Apple the 30 percent cut, and, more importantly, they want that subscriber data.
And so we appear to be where we were a few months ago, at a stalemate. Talking to Google about a rival newsstand seems like a good bargaining tool, but the Android platform still doesn’t have a tablet that’s nearly as popular as the iPad. Amazon has the popular Kindle device, but it’s in black and white and doesn’t exactly seem like the future of magazine content consumption. You can be sure that Apple will want something like this digital newsstand in place by the launch of the iPad 2. And as they like to do, they’ll probably launch it even if they only have a few publishers on board.
And there will be some on board. Because they stand to lose a lot more than Apple does if they don’t get their content to hit on the iPad.
Advances in digital bookselling have usually pushed independent bookstores further and further out of the literary game. However, Google's new store is dealing them back in. Here is how.
If you stroll on over to your corner bookstore this week and ask the person behind the counter about Google's new eBook store, which launches today, you probably won’t be greeted with the kind of teeth-gnashing that has accompanied other digital developments, like Amazon's online bookstore or the advent of proprietary e-readers.
Instead, you might actually be greeted with some excitement and delight. That’s because Google is taking a different approach to selling e-books than Amazon or Barnes & Noble. Rather than create a closed system that leaves others out in the cold, Google is actually collaborating with independent bookstores to sell its wares--and share the profits.
Google's e-books program will act as much as a distribution system as a retail outlet. You can buy Google’s e-books directly from the company’s ebookstore, if you like. But if you’d rather support your local bookstore, you can buy the exact same books on their site. Rather than holding on to every part of the chain, the way Amazon’s Kindle program does, “we’re building an ecosystem,” Google Books director of product management Scott Dougall tellsFast Company.
There are a few reasons Google is going a different way. The ebookstore emerged from the Google Books program, which did not start out as a potential revenue stream. Instead, the company’s book-scanning project was simply a program to help the company fulfil its mission to make all of the world’s information accessible. Since so much information is contained in books, the company wanted to make sure that if you were using Google Search to look for a particular topic, it would be able to point you to books containing information about that topic, in addition to relevant web pages.
Then, as Google Books began collaborating with publishers and contemplating a program to sell books in addition to just making them searchable, it made a philosophical decision that brick-and-mortar bookstores are critical to the literary ecosystem. “A huge amount of books are bought because people go into a physical bookstore and say, 'Hey, I want this, I want that,'” Google Books engineering director Dan Clancy told an audience at the Computer History Museum last year.
Michael Tucker, president of the American Booksellers Association, which negotiated the deal to distribute Google's e-books through independent bookstores, points to another reason Google is dealing the booksellers in: Google is fundamentally a technology company, not a retail enterprise. Moreover, it is certainly not an expert in the book business. “They recognized that they are not a bookstore,” Tucker tells Fast Company. “They wanted to be able to access [the skills of booksellers].”
Google says it has deals to sell books from almost 4,000 publishers, including all the major houses, and that "hundreds of thousands" of books will be available for purchase. Google has arranged to get 30% of every book sale, with publishers retaining the remaining 70%. In its deal with the ABA, bookstores that sell Google e-books will get a portion of that 30 percent. Neither Google nor Tucker would divulge the terms of the deal, but Tucker said it was “more generous” than the deal booksellers currently get from Ingram Digital, the other major supplier of e-books to independent book stores.
Bookstores seem to be cautiously optimistic about the Google program. A person who answered the phone at St. Mark’s Bookshop in New York said, “We’re looking forward to it,” before referring Fast Company to the ABA. “We’re really pleased,” said Mark LaFramboise, a buyer at Washington D.C.’s Politics and Prose. “We’ve been waiting for this for a long time.”
Darin Sennett, director of strategic partnerships at the famous Powell’s book shop in Portland, Oregon, is particularly excited about Google’s technological model. The Kindle, the Nook, and the Sony eReader all use the traditional approach to e-books: They sell DRM-protected files that customers download to devices and which must be read with specific e-reading software.
Google, however, is using the cloud. Its e-books will be stored on Google servers, and readers who have purchased them will access their books via a browser. Unlike in the Kindle system, where Kindle e-books can only be read on Kindle devices, Google e-books will be able to be read on any device that has a browser. Until now, independent bookstores have been effectively shut out of devices like the iPad and smartphones (which are emerging as many customers’ reading platforms of choice) because the e-books available from other distributors were either not compatible with those devices or the formatting was so clunky as to make them effectively unreadable.
“Kindle and Nook are formidable technologies, but they’re islands,” Sennett tells Fast Company. “There are so many [devices and readers] outside those islands. What Google does is fill the oceans between them.”
Readers who prefer to own their own copies of Google e-books will be able to download them, in either PDF or ePub format. But Google anticipates that most customers use the cloud because of its convenience: They’ll always have access to their books, no matter what device they have with them at any particular time. (On the down side, however, using the cloud requires having an active Internet connection.)
Politics and Prose’s LaFramboise says Google's program gives independent bookstores an effective avenue for staying in the bookselling game as some readers’ preferences shift to digital formats. “When people come to us and say ‘We really love independent bookstores and we want to buy our e-books from you,” now we can say, ‘You can.’”
Blog post courtesy of E B Boyd of Fastcompany. The original can be read here:
We may get to check out Google's long-anticipated entry into the digital-book sales market before the end of the year.
Google Editions, which was announced in spring and expected to launch in summer, is expected to be available in the U.S. by the end of the month, Google spokeswoman Jeannie Hornung told CNET today. In September, Hornung talked with CNET about some of the difficulties in launching the ambitious project, saying, "The real answer is, we'll launch the service when it's ready."
Google Editions is expected to open up a new distribution channel for digital-book publishers and give Amazon and Apple a new competitor in the booming digital-book market. However, a key difference is Google's "buy anywhere, read anywhere" approach, which means customers, will purchase titles exclusively through a Web browser, instead of through an online store, as Amazon and Apple customers do. Customers will also be able to use any Internet-connected device--be it a personal computer, smartphone, or tablet computer--to access the books on Google's servers.
Google hasn't revealed who or how many partners it has in the effort. But traditional revenue-sharing models could be upset by the fact that customers wouldn't actually have their own copy of the books they purchase.
Amazon is the dominant player in the e-book field, claiming to command upward of 80 percent of the market. However, in an apparent effort to stave off defections to rival e-book sellers, Amazon recently announced plans to give newspaper and magazine publishers a greater share of the revenue it collects.
Google is no stranger to digital books; the Internet giant announced plans in December 2004 to scan, digitize, and make searchable the collections of five of the largest libraries in the world. However, the effort quickly became embroiled in lawsuits and negotiations over copyright issues.
Post by Steven Musil. Steven is the night news editor at CNET News. Before joining CNET News in 2000, Steven spent 10 years at various Bay Area newspapers. Email Steven.
Ever since we became aware of Google’s intentions to produce its own tablet, the anticipation has built up. Many of you may remember the blog post I wrote some time ago - Holy Cow! Google and Verizon to Launch Chrome OS Tablet. Recently, things seem to have gone quiet. As a naturally curious person, I have wondered why there has not been much said. I also began to wonder whether the tablet would be out at the end of this month.
According some of our sources though, the Google Tablet will be out at the end of this month. At we are not sure is which manufacturer is going to ship it. All we have been told is that it will be a “global brand vendor”.
Another claim we have heard recently is that Google will follow a similar strategy to its Nexus One Smartphone with an own branded Chrome OS netbook. This will see Google release its own netbook sold online exclusively using an ARM processor at its core. It is also understood that manufacturing of the netbook is by Inventec. What is not clear is whether the first Chrome OS netbook will actually be Google’s own branded hardware, or if a manufacturer already shipping netbook hardware will be first out of the gate.
I suppose you could say that my guess is as good as yours as to what will happen. Nevertheless, I say it once again – interesting times ahead.
Contribution by Olusegun Oyekanmi and can be followed on Twitter here; @oluoyekanmi
Google's Books project, a six-year-old task to digitize as many of the world's books as possible, is an incredibly difficult and ambitious undertaking. Working alongside disparate library systems, governments, private collections, universities, and more has proven a challenge, one that's encountered all kinds of resistance. That's not even taking into consideration some of the most basic obstacles Google's had to deal with.
One of those basic obstacles is at the core of the entire project. If you're going to digitize the world's books, it makes sense to figure out how many books there actually are--but as it turns out, that's a whole can of trouble in itself. Google put up a blog post today that illustrates just how tricky it has been to find out the answer to such a simple question, and it's oddly fascinating.
First of all, what defines a "book"? Separate editions count as separate books, right? How different do two editions have to be to count as two books? What about compilations of existing works? You can't even rely on the established systems, like ISBN: ISBN is a fairly recent system, only adopted widely in the 1970s, and it's distinctly more accurate when documenting books from the Western world. Each individual standard classification has its own troubles, and seemingly absolute data like author and title are actually very nebulous and thus not particularly useful.
The way Google's chosen to deal with that problem is by collecting metadata and weeding out as many duplicates as possible. Each title is called a "cluster," incorporating all kinds of different editions and forms of a single "work" or "tome." That leads to a count of 210 million clusters, but those clusters in turn have to be purged of non-book materials cataloged by, among others, the Library of Congress. Those non-books include microform, film, maps, and, weirdly enough, about a thousand T-shirts. Then Google excludes serials, many of which are often given to one work, muddling the count.
So how many books are there? Says Google:
"After we exclude serials, we can finally count all the books in the world. There are 129,864,880 of them. At least until Sunday."
Now, just sit back and wait for that question to be asked on Jeopardy!
Post by Dan Nosowitz of FastCompany and can be read here: http://bit.ly/c1yGCH
More proof, if you needed it, that e-Readers are a busted flush.
Borders has slashed the prices of E-Readers Kobo and Aluratek by $20, illustrating just how meh they've become in the tech world. The price drop is nothing new--both the Kindle and Nook, Amazon and Barnes & Noble's market leaders, have seen their prices slashed recently, and they're thought to be the most exciting brands in the sector. Nevertheless, whom does the news bode worst?
Well, on one front, it shows that Borders is in a bit of trouble (not unlike its main competitor, which is closing stores). It's throwing everything it's got at the e-Reader market--with iPhone, iPad, Android and BlackBerry apps for the Kobo, as well as a bunch of freebies for consumers willing to back the Borders e-burro. And it's not just up against B&N and Amazon, which has now partnered with Staples to begin selling the Kindle in stores this fall. Both Apple and Google are also ramping up their assault on the printed word, with Apple's iBook store already on the market, and Google Editions on its way.
But most of all, this news proves that, as my colleague Kit Eaton pointed out a few months back, this is about as good as it gets for the e-Reader. It is not quite dead, but it's looking a bit peaky, like. The reason is, of course, the tablet. We all know about the iPad and at last, some competitors seem to be showing their faces. Moreover, this, of course, renders the e-Reader if not quite chocolate teapot territory, then one of those crappy ones made out of metal that burn your fingers when you pick it up by the handle.
This post was by Addy Dugdale of FastCompany and can be found here: http://is.gd/fOeiX
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