Archive for June, 2007

Weekly wrapup, 18 – 22 June 2007

Here’s a summary of the week’s digital lifestyle action on last100. Note that you can subscribe to the weekly wrapups, either via the special weekly wrapup RSS feed or by email.

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Top digital lifestyle news

This week was dominated by more iPhone fever, with just over a week to go before the device hits stores in the US.

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iPhone: exploring the limits of third-party apps

iPhone app GasDuring his keynote speech at Apple’s World Wide Developer (WWDC) conference held earlier this month, CEO Steve Jobs dropped a “one more thing” bombshell. The company would provide a way for third-party developers to create applications for the iPhone — not by giving access to the device’s operating system, but instead through the web. Since the iPhone runs a full web browser, Jobs said that developers would be able to build web-based applications that, with Apple’s help, would look and feel just like regular apps. This was met with disappointment among the audience gathered at the Moscone center and developers around the globe.

However, ten days later, and we’ve already seen plenty of developer activity, with a number of prototype web apps being built which are designed specifically to fit the iPhone’s screen, and utilize (as much as possible) the device’s multi-touch interface. I’m calling these applications prototypes because most people have yet to get their hands on an iPhone, and only those developers who paid the entrance fee to WWDC have been privy to guidelines on what is and what isn’t possible.

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Could RealPlayer 11 encourage more DRM?

RealPlayer logoThe most useful and controversial feature of the upcoming version of Real’s media player, RealPlayer 11 (see our review), is the ability to download almost any online video to a user’s hard drive. This includes content from YouTube and Google Video for example, as well as mainstream media Internet properties such as Comedy Central or — regardless of whether those site’s terms and conditions rule out downloading and saving video. In fact, the only content that RealPlayer 11 won’t enable users to save a copy of are those videos that explicitly use Digital Rights Management (DRM) technology. Though, for now, in terms of free-to-watch online video, these are in the minority.

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YouTube coming to iPhone

YouTube iPhoneNews that YouTube will be coming to the iPhone when it launches on the 29th of this month, should come as no surprise. Back when the device was first announced, Apple CEO, Steve Jobs, suggested that the iPhone wouldn’t need to support Flash video in order to access YouTube. Instead, Jobs explained, all Apple had to do was persuade the video sharing site to become a partner and re-encode its back catalog into the company’s preferred h.264 video format. Which is exactly what happened with regards to the AppleTV — and now the iPhone.

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Opera responds to iPhone-envy

Opera logoWhenever Apple CEO Steve Jobs talks about the company’s soon-to-be released iPhone, you can guarantee he’ll mention the device’s Internet capabilities. Like a doting father he boasts, this isn’t the “baby” web, this is the real thing — never seen before on a mobile phone. From the very first time Jobs made such a claim, I felt (in fact I knew) he was being disingenuous. Nokia’s Series 60-based handsets run a full web browser based on Apple’s own WebKit source code — something which Jobs would be well aware of. However, one thing the iPhone can claim to be doing is raising the bar of what consumers can expect from the mobile web — after years of industry hype and bitter disappointment.

Enter Opera’s new version of its mobile web browser: Opera Mini version 4. The upgraded software (currently in Beta) brings in a whole host of features which will naturally bring about comparisons to the iPhone’s browser.

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VeohTV has Joost in its sights

VeohTV logoOver at our sister blog, Read/WriteWeb, Phil Butler has the scoop on VeohTV, the latest product from the video sharing site, Veoh. Subtly billing itself as a Joost-killer, VeohTV is a peer-to-peer online video application that, like Joost (and recently launched rival, Babelgum), runs in fullscreen mode so as to give a more TV-like viewing experience. However, Buttler notes a key difference in VeohTV’s approach which can be summed up by the company’s mantra: “Video Lives All Over the Web”.

This simple truth is demonstrated in the new VeohTV service’s approach to aggregating and utilizing all types of video. VeohTV allows users access to virtually any video with unparalleled functionality, quality and control from a very advanced viewing interface.

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BitTorrent releases SDK for set-top-boxes and other devices

bitTorrent logoBitTorrent, the company behind the popular peer-to-peer file sharing technology, has announced the availability of its Software Development Kit (SDK) for consumer electronics devices.

Similar to way the Skype officially sanctions its software for use in hardware such as headsets and WiFi enabled phones or DivX does for its video codec used by media players, BitTorrent will sell its SDK to company’s building set-top boxes, Network-Attached Storage (NAS) devices, and digital media adapters. In return for signing up, BitTorrent will provide a limited amount of technical support, as well as offer the chance for licensee’s products to become officially BitTorrent certified — a guarantee to consumers that they’ll be fully compatible with the BitTorrent protocol as well as be able to connect to and download files from BitTorrent’s Entertainment Network, which offers movies, music, TV shows, and games.

Related post: Joost’s new CEO points to a set-top-box future

7digital, music downloads done right?

7digital logoMore evidence that the music industry might finally be ‘getting it’ came with last week’s announcement by 7digital of its revamped music download service. Not only is the company moving towards DRM-free mp3 downloads (which, thanks to a recent deal with EMI, now account for over 50% of its catalogue), but has also introduced a ‘locker’ feature whereby purchased tracks and videos are accessible by users “from anywhere with an Internet connection”. Additionally, if for some reason you lose your original paid-for downloads, through a hard drive failure for example, you’re free to re-download those tracks at no extra cost. For me, this is a must have feature that the market leader, Apple’s iTunes, sorely lacks.

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Steve Jobs: iPhone is magical (battery life increased)

iPhone release date; ad campaign beginsWith any other mobile phone manufacturer or model, an increase in battery life prior to release — however slow a news day — just wouldn’t be news. But this is Apple’s iPhone, one of the most anticipated new products in the mobile space we’ve ever seen — and certainly the most hyped.

In what veteran Mac journalist, Jason O’Grady, calls the company’s “under-promise and over-deliver philosophy“, Apple stated in a press release today that when the iPhone hits stores in just under two weeks time, it will have an increased battery life (up to 8 hours of talk time, 6 hours of Internet use, 7 hours of video playback or 24 hours of audio playback) and a more scratch-resistant screen than was originally announced.

CEO Steve Jobs is quoted as saying:

“… iPhone’s battery life is longer than any other ‘Smartphone’ and even longer than most MP3 players… We’ve also upgraded iPhone’s entire top surface from plastic to optical-quality glass for superior scratch resistance and clarity. There has never been a phone like iPhone, and we can’t wait to get this truly magical product into the hands of customers starting just 11 days from today.”

Did Jobs just liken the iPhone to magic?

Remember it was science-fiction author, Arthur C. Clarke, who wrote that “any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic.”

Only 11 more days. Let the hype machine continue…

(Will you buy an iPhone? Take our poll.)

Microsoft rebrands its IPTV plaftorm, adds PC to TV functionality

Microsoft Mediaroom logoMicrosoft today announced the availability of Microsoft Mediaroom, a re-branded version of its IPTV software platform that enables service providers to deliver interactive IPTV services into the home.

Along with the new name, the company has added a number of new features including PC to set-top-box media sharing (photos and music), multi picture-in-picture capabilities, and over-the-air digital terrestrial television support. Additionally, the new Microsoft Mediaroom Application Development toolkit allows service providers and third-party developers to connect to web services and develop TV-based applications that will run under Microsoft Mediaroom.

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