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пʼятниця, 8 квітня 2011 р.

Android Fragmentation: FUD and Facts

How do you create an open platform that can be used by dozens of hardware vendors and hundreds of software developers without some fragmentation? You don't. Yet to hear all the complaints about Android fragmentation, you would think that Google must either lock down its OS like Apple does with its iOS or try to run it as a Linux-like free-software collective. The former certainly works for Apple, but it doesn't really play to Google's strengths. The latter is pure folly. Instead, Google is trying to walk a middle road here, and, whatever the pitfalls, it seems to be doing a pretty good job so far. Android has 33 percent of the U.S. smartphone market share; not bad for a fragmented OS.

Android fragmentation has been an issue since the platform launched, but it became newsworthy again this week because of a report from Robert W. Baird & Co. In a survey of 250 Android developers, 55 percent of Android developers found OS fragmentation to be a meaningful or huge problem. In the interest of full disclosure, I have to say I can't code a lick. And yet, from a developer's perspective, I can certainly understand the issue. Multiple screen resolutions, hardware configurations, and OS versions must be a pain. At the very least, they present a challenge.

About the same time, reports started drifting out about how Google would be cracking down on fragmentation and taking a tighter grip on its OS. Bloomberg published an article provocatively titled "Do Not Anger the Alpha Android," which announced that Google had sent new marching orders to its ecosystem partners, summarized thus:

There will be no more willy-nilly tweaks to the software. No more partnerships formed outside of Google's purview. From now on, companies hoping to receive early access to Google's most up-to-date software will need approval of their plans. And they will seek that approval from Andy Rubin, the head of Google's Android group.

Of course, none of the "dozens" of sources for this story allowed their names to be used. After all, the consequences for crossing Google seem pretty dire already. Talking to the press could get your app booted from the Android Market, right? Because the platform is so locked down and tightly controlled?

The closed/fragmented confusion got bad enough that the aforementioned Andy Rubin felt the need to clear the air. In a post on the Android developer blog, he tried to allay fragmentation fears and assure partners that Android will remain open. As should be clear by now, there is a tension between these two messages, but not necessarily a contradiction. As Rubin put it:

As always, device makers are free to modify Android to customize any range of features for Android devices. This enables device makers to support the unique and differentiating functionality of their products. If someone wishes to market a device as Android-compatible or include Google applications on the device, we do require the device to conform with some basic compatibility requirements.

The reasonableness of this statement depends on the specific modifications, the nature of the additional functionality, and, of course, the fine print of those basic compatibility requirements. All of these things can and will be debated. Software developers say the platform is too fragmented, hardware vendors say Google is wielding too much control, but what gets overlooked is the interest of the consumer. What has "fragmentation" meant for them? They have been enjoying a plethora of hardware devices, an amazing number of application options, and a platform that, whatever its "compatibility requirements," is the most open mobile OS on the market.

Rubin titled his post "I'm thinking of having Gene Amdahl moment." Amdahl is credited with coining the phrase "fear, uncertainly and doubt" to describe how IBM salespeople would play on customer fears to get them to avoid his products. "Nobody ever got fired for buying IBM" and all that. Certainly, many of the attacks on Android for being messy and fragmented come from competitors with axes to grind. This tactic was perhaps most effectively deployed by Steve Jobs: "Folks who want porn can buy an Android phone." But Google's isn't above this sort of thing itself. Just count how many times it refers to iOS as "closed" at Google I/O next month.

Anyway, all of this FUD about fragmentation may be solved when Honeycomb is finally released. Honeycomb will come with tools designed to address fragmentation that will broaden compatibility. Apps written for Android dating back to v1.6 will be supported. It will also run on both tablets and smartphones; getting it to run right on the latter is allegedly what is taking so long.

Whatever the benefits of Honeycomb, the bottom line is that Android is neither completely open nor totally closed. There is no getting around the fact that Android is Google's platform. Every other vendor and carrier is at best second tier, and most of this posturing is by vendors worried about falling into the third or fourth tier.

That might be bad for them, but it isn't really an issue for consumers to worry about. For them the Android ecosystem should be free from fear, uncertainty or doubt.

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Ask Maggie: AT&T to cut T-Mobile Wi-Fi call feature?

All good things must come to an end. At least that's likely the case for T-Mobile USA customers who like using the carrier's Wi-Fi calling feature on certain smartphones.

In this week's column, I discuss whether I think AT&T will keep the Unlicensed Mobile Access Wi-Fi calling feature that T-Mobile offers on some of its smartphones. I also discuss Samsung's problem with long delays for Android OS updates. And I explain to a Boost Mobile customer that he has two years to pick out a new phone before Sprint turns out the lights on the existing iDEN network that the Boost service currently uses.

Ask Maggie is a weekly advice column that answers readers' wireless and broadband questions. If you've got a question, please send me an e-mail at maggie dot reardon at cbs dot com. And please put "Ask Maggie" in the subject header.

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Logitech Keyboard Case for the iPad 2

So you’ve managed to snag an iPad 2 for yourself, so what better way to “celebrate” that occasion than with a cool accessory to go along with it? We’re talking about the Logitech Keyboard Case for the iPad 2, where it makes it super convenient to use the iPad 2 wherever you are without having to worry about whether your precious new tablet is going to get scratched or other equally disastrous physical defects. Incidentally, this is Logitech’s first offering that was specially designed for tablets that deliver an added dose of protection, convenience and style. In order to look stylistically in sync with the iPad 2, the Logitech Keyboard Case is also made out of precision-cut aircraft-grade aluminum while boasting military-grade, high-density padding. You can still carry out your Face Time conversations without a hitch, and with a flexible, folding hinge, it is a snap to place your iPad 2 in either portrait or landscape mode. Out in the US from this month onwards, the Logitech Keyboard Case can be yours for $99.99.

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Asus iPad 2 Rival Now Available From £361

The Asus EEE Pad Transformer can be purchased using a special code until the 13th of April for only £361 including free delivery, an £18 cashback on the suggested retail price.

The tablet is available at Comet with the price slashed by five per cent using the code 5OFF.

It does compare very well with the 16GB iPad 2 tablet Wi-Fi only, its most direct competitor. It has a built in GPS, is powered by the Nvidia Tegra 2 SoC running at 1GHz, has 1GB RAM, 16GB onboard storage and a 10.1-inch 1280x800 pixels IPS capacitive touchscreen display with Gorilla's toughened glass.

Other features include HDMI, Wi-Fi, Bluetooth, a five-megapixel rear camera and a two-megapixel front facing one, a microSD card reader, a battery that can power the tablet for up to eight hours and Android Honeycomb.

The bundle which includes the keyboard docking station can also be purchased from Comet for just over £407. The accessory can provide with an additional eight hours battery life as well as two USB ports, making it a great alternative to the iPad 2 as well as a normal netbook.

It compares very well to the Motorola XOOM and the Acer Iconia A500 as well, two other tablets that run on Honeycomb and which will launch over the next few days.

Read more: http://allmactipz.co.cc/2011/04/08/mac-uninstall-applications/

Some Verizon iPad 2 Owners Having Connection Problems

A six-page (and growing) forum post on Apple's support website finds numerous owners of the Verizon-compatible iPad 2 reporting problems connecting to Verizon's 3G network.

The problem seems to be that if the iPad's Verizon connection is turned off, the tablet must be rebooted in order to get it connected again. This glitch only affects the Verizon connection; the Wi-Fi connection isn't affected.

Users are reporting that calls to Apple and trips to Apple's Genius Bar aren't helping. The only apparent fix is to turn the Verizon connection back on in the settings and then reboot the iPad. One forum poster said that turning on data roaming in the settings has worked as well.

The first forum entry popped up on March 15th and, despite a software update that became available on March 25th, hasn't been addressed yet. There's another update rumored to be coming in the next week or two that'll hopefully patch up Verizon's connection problems.

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Motorola Xoom – Sales Disappoint In Comparison With iPad 2

Deutsche Bank analysts have confirmed poor sales for the Motorola Xoom, within the first two months of release.

Motorola had high hopes for the Xoom, its new project, seeing it as a natural competitor for the iPad, but it has only sold 100,000 units since its release in February.

In comparison the Apple iPad 2 sold 300,000 on its first day of release in March. It has now topped 2.5 million sales in March alone.

The Xoom runs on Android 3.0 (Honeycomb) which is designed specifically for tablets and won ‘Best of Show’ from CNET at the Consumer Electronics Show.

The tablets features include a 10.1 inch wide touchscreen, which supports HD video playback. It is powered by a 1 GHz dual-core processor and has 1GB of RAM, and features a 5 mega-pixel rear facing camera, which can be used for video calling.

The Motorola Xoom is set go on sale in mid April, with many retailers already looking to reduce the price by £20 (now set at £580).

With the domination of the market by Apple, this could be a miscalculated venture by Motorola. With iPad apps being produced at a rapid rate, and facilities being offered by the Xoom being readily available on the iPad, it remains to be seen if the market is big enough for two.

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RIM PlayBook Launch Delayed Due to Apple iPad 2: Report

Research In Motion's PlayBook launch was delayed a month because of Apple exerting pressures on the supply of touch screens, according to a new report.

Research In Motion’s upcoming PlayBook tablet was delayed due to Apple swallowing up manufacturers’ touch-panel capacity, according to a new report in DigiTimes.

The 7-inch PlayBook will hit store shelves April 19 in the United States and Canada, with a starting price of $499 for the 16GB model, $599 for the 32GB, and $699 for the 64GB version. That places the device roughly in the middle of pricing for the red-hot tablet market—not to mention toe-to-toe with the iPad 2, whose 16GB version retails for $499, 32GB for $599, and 64GB for $699.

“Sources from touch-screen panel makers also pointed out that PlayBook shipments were postponed for about a month from the original schedule due to a delay in software testing,” read DigiTimes’ April 7 report, “as well as shortage of touch panels because Apple already booked up most of the available capacity.” It added that Foxlink, one prominent supplier, is tasked with shipping components for both RIM and Apple.

A RIM representative told eWEEK that the company will not comment “on rumors and speculation.”

Since the debut of the original iPad in 2010, manufacturers and pundits have kept an eye on the bestselling tablet’s potential effect on the worldwide electronics supply chain. In addition to Apple, other beneficiaries from a blockbuster iPad include the components makers who craft the touch-screen and its underlying hardware, including the battery.

At the same time, however, even the largest manufacturer boasts only so much capacity; and, presumably, other tablet-makers who want to use the same or similar parts could find their supply and timetables squeezed by the insatiable demand for the iPad. Rumors have also circulated that Apple made a $3.9 billion investment in touch-screen displays, which could limit the supply pool available to other manufacturers.

Possibly compounding the situation is the recent Japanese earthquake, which took several electronics factories offline. An IHS iSuppli teardown of the iPad 2 identified at least five components sourced from Japanese companies. While some suppliers reported their fabrication facilities undamaged by the earthquake and subsequent tsunami, difficulties in shipping and trouble with the electricity grid could continue to make delivering components a challenge. That could affect not only Apple’s plans, but also those of other tablet-makers.

The iPad 2 components sourced from Japan, said IHS iSuppli, include NAND flash from Toshiba; DRAMs (dynamic RAMs) from Elpida Memory; an electronic compass from AKM Semiconductor; a system battery from Apple Japan; and the iPad 2’s touch-screen overlay glass, which some analysts suspect comes from Asahi Glass.

Unlike most of the tablets poised to hit the market over the next few quarters, which rely on Google’s Android for an operating system, the PlayBook uses a proprietary operating system developed in-house by RIM, using assets acquired during the April 2010 takeover of QNX Software Systems.

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Verizon 3G iPad 2 owners report reboot problem

For countless months, iPad and iPhone owners longed for Verizon to swoop down from on high and offer them versions of their favorite devices free from the accursed AT&T network. Now, users have those Verizon-based Apple gadgets--along with the first consistent reports of a recurring problem unique to one of them.

Owners of Verizon's native iPad 2 with both Wi-Fi and 3G (in 16, 32 and 64GB memory configurations) are complaining in online forums that they must reboot their devices if they want to connect to 3G after previously switching that feature off.

The Apple Support Discussion boards list five pages discussing the problem. Wi-Fi functions work well enough, but 3G connections either take several minutes or never occur at all. While there's no clear evidence that all Verizon iPad 2 users face the same problem, the complaints coming in from those affected are very similar. When the Verizon iPad 2's 3G function is deactivated, it will not reactivate or connect without a reboot. Switching the device in and out airplane mode has no effect.

Board posts complain of hours on the phone to Apple Customer Service and trips to the Genius Bar without solving the problem. Some extreme cases report Apple Store reps tapping out and simply handing over a replacement iPad 2--only to see the same problem return.

Multiple forums offer the same procedure for overcoming the problem:

1. Turn the cellular data switch to on.
2. Power off the iPad.
3. Power up the iPad.
4. Turn on cellular data. Data switch is already on.
5. The Verizon service turns on and connects properly.

Still, some users grow weary of repeatedly rebooting their devices--Verizon iPad 2 owners are starting to contemplate the previously unthinkable: returning to AT&T and its overworked, much maligned 3G network for better connectivity.

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Rumor: Best Buy's iPad 2 sales strategy gets it 'blacklisted' by Apple

Numerous rumors have claimed that Best Buy is in hot water with Apple over its alleged policy to stop iPad 2 sales once it meets its quota for the day, leaving the retailer "blacklisted" from further iPad sales.

Citing a source at Best Buy, CrunchGear reported this week that Best Buy was holding off on selling iPad 2 units it had in stock, telling customers they were sold out when, in reality, the stores had just reached their internal quota for that day. That strategy is rumored to have upset Apple, which is allegedly no longer allowing the retailer to sell the iPad 2.

"No less than (Apple Chief Operating Officer) Tim Cook is involved in this little snafu, and will be helping with the negotiations," the report said.

In addition, TUAW also received a tip that Apple "ordered a freeze on sales of the iPad 2 through Best Buy." The report also claimed that the retailer has pulled all stock except demo units.

Best Buy has been a partner in selling the iPad since the first-generation device launched last April. A year ago, Best Buy was the only non-Apple retailer that was allowed to sell the iPad, though other options such as Walmart and Target were added as the year went on.

Best Buy also has a unique partnership with Apple, as the electronics retailer commits a significant amount of floor space devoted specifically to Apple products in many of its stores. Best Buy began adding Apple boutiques to its stores in 2008.

In March, it was also rumored that Best Buy was considering giving the iPad to all of its on-the-floor sales associates at its 1,100 U.S. stores. It was said that employees would use devices such as the iPad to educate consumers and process purchases.

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