Technologizer posts about Android

Coda: Gameloft Loves Android After All!

By  |  Posted at 8:13 am on Wednesday, November 25, 2009

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The developer behind mobile phone versions of Assassin’s Creed and Brothers in Arms isn’t as anti-Android as its finance director led us to believe.

Less than a week after Gameloft financier Alexandre de Rochefort said the company has “significantly cut” investments in Android, Gameloft issued a press release saying, essentially, that it still loves Google’s mobile platform, and wants to make sweet, sweet “High Definition games” on it.

In particular, Gameloft will develop titles for second-generation Android phones such as Motorola’s Droid and Sony’s Ericsson Xperia X10.

When I previously outlined the problems with Android gaming, I said there’s room for improvement, particularly with multi-touch technology in the Droid. It’s worth noting that both the phones Gameloft mentions allow for 3D games as well — something Gameloft excels in with the racer Asphalt 5 and the Grand Theft Auto clone Gangstar: West Coast Hustle.

So it appears that Rochefort’s statement about Android investment was misinterpreted, but remember that he also knocked the Android’s ability to actually sell games. His words: “It is not as neatly done as on the iPhone. Google has not been very good to entice customers to actually buy products. On Android nobody is making significant revenue.”

That issue isn’t addressed in Gameloft’s latest press release, but I imagine there’s a chicken-and-egg theory in play. If developers take the first step of making high quality games on Android, phone manufacturers can market gaming as a key feature in their products, attracting more game sales, which in turn brings in more interest from developers. So I’m glad Gameloft isn’t bailing out on a mobile gaming platform that has potential to grow.



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What’s Wrong With Android Gaming?

By  |  Posted at 6:03 pm on Friday, November 20, 2009

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The latest in self-important mobile app developer drama comes from Gameloft, but it’s not the usual iPhone bashing we’ve come to expect.

Instead, Gameloft finance director Alexandre de Rochefort declared (via Reuters) that the company’s got beef with Android. “We have significantly cut our investment in Android platform, just like … many others,” he said at an investor conference in Barcelona. He explained that the Android Market is just too weak compared to the iPhone’s App Store, on which Gameloft sells 400 times more games.

“Google has not been very good to entice customers to actually buy products,” Rochefort said. “On Android nobody is making significant revenue.”

I’m not an Android phone owner, so I can’t speak at length about the Android Market experience. From my understanding, it’s no great shakes. But as a gamer, I can spot a few things that are holding Android back.

For starters, Android 2.0 was the platform’s first version to support multi-touch, a vital feature for first-person shooters such as Wolfenstein 3D or the excellent Eliminate Pro. In Gameloft’s case, no multi-touch means no Assassin’s Creed 2 or Gangstar: West Coast Hustle, both of which rely on multi-touch controls.

Then you’ve got the low application storage limits found in most Android hardware to date. Even the latest, Motorola’s Droid, only allows for 256 MB of app storage. As Android and Me notes, that rules out a game like Myst, which on the iPhone occupies 727 MB.

I also think there’s a silent killer at hand in the form of emulators. I sampled a friend’s Droid last weekend, and I couldn’t believe that he could play classic Nintendo, Genesis and Super NES games on his phone. That’s an asset if you’re a consumer, but I don’t doubt that emulators cannibalize game sales in the Android Market.

To top it off, I don’t get the sense that Android phone manufacturers and carriers are marketing video games as a big use. Check out the pinwheel on Verizon’s Droid Web site — gaming barely gets a mention.

The sad thing is that most of the points I mention are being addressed, or are at least fixable. Gameloft has every right to complain, as developers do, but maybe the company is bailing out at precisely the wrong time.



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SugarSync Comes to Android

By  |  Posted at 5:00 am on Wednesday, July 29, 2009

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SugarSync LogoSharpcast is serious about putting its SugarSync file-syncing-to-the-cloud service on devices of all sorts. It’s already available on Windows, OS X, iPhone OS, BlackBerry, and Windows Mobile–and, as of today, on Android. As with SygarSync’s other versions, the idea is simple and the implementation is elegant: You can use an Android phone to browse through folders and files on a Windows or Mac PC (even if it’s turned off, since SugarSync continuously syncs files to its servers) and download them. You can also upload files from the phone, and browse files stored locally.

I chatted with Sharpcast CEO Laura Yecies about the new version; she told me that she thinks Android netbooks will be a thriving product category (even if Google’s Chrome OS takes off) and that SugarSync will be useful on them, both for local file management and for getting at documents stored on a netbook owner’s primary computer.

SugarSync offers a free version with 2GB of storage, which is enough to give it a try; paid accounts start at $4.99 a month or $49.99 a year for 30GB of space.

Here are a couple of screen images from the new Android client:

Sharpcast

SugarSync



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Is the Palm Pre Robust Enough?

By  |  Posted at 6:34 pm on Monday, June 29, 2009

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Internet forums are atwitter about Palm Pre build quality issues. The revelation that the Palm Pre might be shoddy could not come at a worse time for the company, as it struggles to find sure financial footing.

A comment left at Palm enthusiast Web site Precentral.net sums up many of the quality problem that early adopters claim to be experiencing:

“Im [sic] on my THIRD pre (yellow box). Over the last two weeks, i’ve noticed an increasing amount of play with the screen. I’ve also noticed that on the left side of the device the two sections are separated enough that i can almost see the innards. When I push them together, you can hear squeaking. On top of that, the device came with a loose power button that doesn’t click nearly as firmly as that of other devices.”

Last week, RBC Capital analyst Mike Abramsky estimated that Palm has sold 150,000 Pre units so far. That is not as widely successful as the iPhone 3GS, but it’s a promising start. However, the Pre’s promise might fall short if it gains a reputation for being unreliable.

The iPhone is stiff competition, but Palm faces an additional challenge from RIM’s Blackberry Tour and new Android phones. Palm’s acclaimed WebOS operating system cannot keep pace on unreliable hardware. Meanwhile, Palm’s stock has become a new favorite of short sellers due to its dismal earnings report last week and lack of guidance about future Pre sales. Palm’s Pre could be its last best hope, but the company still has a huge challenge in front of it.



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More New Google Stuff: Google Squared, Rich Snippets, Sky Map for Android

By  |  Posted at 11:26 am on Tuesday, May 12, 2009

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Google SearchologyHere at Searchology, Google just announced something that will be available in Google Labs later this month. It’s called Google Squared, and I can’t quite tell if it’s going to be amazingly useful or just quirky and clever. It’s a search feature that returns results in a spreadsheet view, with information sorted into columns and rows. The demo involved doing a search on dog breeds (I’ll post images soon), with pictures of the breeds and information on factors like their size and energy level broken into fields.

Google is saying that the idea is a work in progress, and won’t always do what it’s supposed to–the demo also included a search for vegetables in which the search engine got confused and started populating the row for “squash” with information on the sport. But users can edit the results and save them–the notion is that a Google Squared result can be the starting point for big research jobs like choosing a dog.

It’ll be impossible to judge just how practical Google Squared is without doing a bunch of searches once it’s available, but the fact that Google is launching it at all is evidence of the semantic understanding of Web results that it’s gaining–the whole feature is dependent on the ability to turn unstructured text into highly regimented, database-like fields.

Also new today is a feature called Rich Snippets, which makes the little bits of text in results more useful–by identifying that a result is a review by a particular person, for instance, or extracting the location and profession of a person in a result so you can tell if it’s the person you’re looking for. And the last demo of the morning was for Google Sky Map, a virtual planetarium program for the Android platform that uses a phone’s accelerometer to let  you look in the sky and get a map of what you’re looking at.

Okay, some appallingly bad images of Google Squared in action (I shot these off a display at the Googleplex during a demo). Here’s a search for roller coasters, with a name column, one with an image, one with a description, one with the height and more:

Google Squared

Here’s a look at how Squared lets you see multiple items that might be appropriate for a cell in a square (which is what the spreadsheet-like views are called) and pick the best one. Note also that it shows where the data came from–and that Squared’s understanding of the data goes only so far (it has trouble distinguishing between a coaster’s height and the minimum height required to ride it):

Google Squared Options

Here’s a square of information about digital cameras (if Squared works well, it could be a potent research tool when you’re shopping for big-ticket items):

Google Squared

And here’s a square that a Google employee showed us when TechCrunch’s Mike Arrington asked to see results that didn’t work well (it’s for pizza, and shows restaurants in New York, Oakland, and Las Vegas):

Google Squared



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Android Notebooks From Dell?


Engadget is reporting that mobile software company Bsquare issued a press release saying it was providing software for Dell netbooks running Google’s Android OS. It’s hard to see how a company could do so unless it was, indeed, working with Dell on such products. But Dell hasn’t said anything about Android, and I’m not seeing the press release Engadget republished on Bsquare’s site.

One way or another, it’ll be fascinating to see if Android (or other contenders, like Palm’s WebOS) does end up on netbooks, and if so, whether it finds success. It isn’t every day that a new consumer client OS arrives and finds success–in 2009 as in 1984, the major players are Microsoft and Apple, and other players are tiny potatoes when it comes to market share (sorry, Linux, I love you just the same). But with more and more of everyday computing happening in the browser, it’s never been more plausible that a new OS might make sense and gain traction. Although it’s still not entirely clear to me why Android would be a more compelling netbook OS than something like Ubuntu already is…

Posted by Harry McCracken at 4:19 pm

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Gmail for iPhone and Android Gets Slicker, Adds Offline Capabilities

By  |  Posted at 11:59 am on Tuesday, April 7, 2009

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Gmail for iPhoneGoogle’s browser-based version of Gmail for the iPhone is pretty darn impressive–good enough, in fact, that I’ve been using it as my primary iPhone email program instead of Apple’s Mail app. But Google is rolling out a new Gmail for iPhones, iPods Touch, and Android phones today that looks like a significant leap forward. It’s got some basic offline features (you can read recent messages and compose new ones even when you’re disconnected) and it’s got some new interface niceties (you don’t need to scroll around as much to get to tools such as the search bar). And Google says it’s a lot faster.

Back when the iPhone was young(er), Steve Jobs briefly tried to convince the world that it didn’t need native apps, because sophisticated Web apps would do everything you needed. He turned out to be wrong, which okay, since Apple announced the iPhone SDK within months. But I still think that Web-based iPhone apps have tons of potential, and I’m glad to see companies like Google explore it.

The Gmail and Android versions of Google Calendar–which are nowhere near as sophisticated as Gmail–also got some new features today.

More thoughts once I’ve had a chance to spend time with the new Gmail; for now, here’s a video walkthrough from Google:

[UPDATE: I've been playing with the new verson, and it's terrific--really polished and well done. I just wish that there was a way to cache larger quantities of old e-mail for offline use, as you can with desktop Gmail.]



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NYT: T-Mobile to Use Android in Home Phone, Tablet

By  |  Posted at 9:47 am on Monday, April 6, 2009

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Google AndroidT-Mobile has been one of Google’s biggest supporters in the US when it comes to Android. Confidential documents obtained by the New York Times indicate that the carrier plans to take that partnership even further with at least two new devices due to launch in 2010.

The first of the two would be a home phone unit that would plug into a docking station and would have some type of additional device for data synchronization. It sounds very similar to the Hub that Verizon Wireless has begun selling recently.

As for the tablet, it is said to be a 7-inch device without a keyboard. While it’s exact specs are not known, it would likely act much like the netbooks that have seen increasing popularity in recent months.

Spokesperson Peter Dobrow would not confirm the report, but did share that the company plans to release “several” Android devices in the future. It will be interesting to see if T-Mobile’s gamble on Android pays off, if/when the OS takes off.



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Android May Start Appearing on Netbooks

By  |  Posted at 8:00 am on Wednesday, April 1, 2009

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Google AndroidThe Wall Street Journal reported on Tuesday that HP and other manufacturers are considering using Google’s Android on netbooks. HP has confirmed the report, saying it is considering using the OS, however has made no final decisions on the matter. Asustek and Dell are also said to be considering similiar moves.

Using Android on netbooks does not come without pitfalls. While Linux graced early models, manufacturers turned to Windows to allow the devices to run popular programs, and in turn make them more marketable.

However, at the same time, Windows is expensive to put on the netbook. As these devices sell at prices typically well below $500, a non-Windows model could viably sell for under $200, say analysts.

There is no charge to use Android at the moment, a move by Google to spur quick adoption of its product.

Will it work? I’m guessing it probably won’t, unless Google can figure out how to overcome the software hurdle. While these PCs are cheap, consumers have shown a preference for the familiar, and putting Windows on these netbooks have proven to be the kick in the pants netbooks needed.

Heck, I’m a Mac guy and I have seriously been considering an Acer Aspire One everytime I walk by it at Wal-Mart. The price is attractive, and that would be great for conferences.



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Watch Out, Windows: Here Comes Android?

By  |  Posted at 12:15 pm on Friday, February 20, 2009

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Android BookBloomberg is reporting that Eee PC titan Asus is playing around with the idea of building a netbook that runs Android, Google’s Linux-based operating system. Android is debuting on phones–HTC just announced the Magic, the second Android handset–but Google says the OS could power computers, too.

Android is designed for devices without a lot of computing horsepower, and manufacturers don’t have to pay Google a license fee–two qualities that might conceivably make it a formidable competitor to Windows on netbooks. But it’s not immediately clear–at least to me–why Android would be a better match for netbooks than Ubuntu, the Linux that Asus and other netbook vendors already use. [CORRECTION: Janet Rae-Dupree reminds me that Asus uses Xandros, not Ubuntu.] Ubuntu already has a PC-style user interface, and it’s compatible with an array of applications; Android would need work on both fronts before it was ready to run on netbooks. And even then, it might end up looking…a lot like Ubuntu.

Ultimately, I don’t think it would make much sense for Asus or any other hardware manufacturer to pour resources into trying to make Android netbook-friendly. You’d want Google in on the project, and I don’t know just how intriguing the company finds the idea of putting its OS on fairly traditional computing devices. I do think, however, that it would make sense for Google to finish the work of making Android a truly compelling iPhone OS alternative before it takes on Windows. (On the T-Mobile G1, the first Android handset to ship, the OS is neat…but it feels like a rough draft. Maybe it should sport a Google-style “BETA” disclaimer every time you turn your phone on.)

One of the more interesting questions in the whole world of tech right now is the fate of Android. It’s bursting with promise, and it wouldn’t stun me to see it become the most widely-used smartphone OS at some point…at the very least, that scenario seems about as plausible as any other. And if Google wants netbook manufacturers to give Android a try, it can presumably make it happen.

It’s still tough to tell, however, just how committed to Android Google is, and how persistent it’ll be if the OS isn’t an immediate success with obvious benefits to the company. Anyone want to hazard any guesses about where Android will be, say, two years from now? Will it exist in any form in a decade?



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