The Tech Block podcast 7.31.12

podcast graphic The Tech Block podcast 7.31.12

In this week’s podcast, Abdel, Jon, and special guest Sam Soffes, founder of Nothing Magical and creator of to-do app Cheddar, discuss the iPhone 5 and iPad mini, Apple’s weird new ads, Digg’s second coming, Cheddar for iOS, and Apple and Samsung’s latest court battle.

Show notes:

Apple will unveil iPhone 5 and iPad mini on September 12, release them soon afterward
New Apple Ads
The new Digg debuts in a few days, here’s what to expect
Cheddar for iOS is Now Open Source
Apple and Samsung square off in court over patents

Download Podcast / Subscribe in iTunes

Zuckerberg on possibility of Facebook phone: It wouldn’t make sense

Multiple sources have said Facebook intends to release a branded smartphone in the near future. Wednesday, for instance, Bloomberg reported that the social network has teamed up with HTC to build a handset that could launch in mid-2013. What’s more, Facebook has hired several people who were closely involved in the development of Apple’s devices.

But despite the mounting evidence for a Facebook phone, the company’s founder and CEO, Mark Zuckerberg, said during an earnings call Thursday that it wouldn’t make sense to produce such a device.

Citing the popularity of Facebook’s app, which is among the most downloaded apps on every platform it’s on, Zuckerberg said there’s no point getting into hardware.

Early iPhone prototypes were inspired by Sony designs

The Verge has come across a number of documents revealing early prototypes of both the iPhone and the iPad. And according to a court filing made ahead of the companies’ impending patent trial, set to kick off on Monday, some of Apple’s early iPhone prototypes were influenced by Sony designs, which, as you can see, bear a striking resemblance to the iPhone 4S. Other interesting documents reveal the many materials Apple experimented with as well as an iPad with a kickstand. Yes, a kickstand. For more photos, head over to The Verge.

Bloomberg: Facebook and HTC working on smartphone for mid-2013 release

Bloomberg reports that Facebook has tapped HTC to build a smartphone that could launch as soon as mid-2013. According to Bloomberg’s sources, the companies originally planned to release a Facebook-branded device as early as this year, but the timetable was moved back to give HTC time to work on other products.

Facebook said in a statement that its “mobile strategy is simple: We think every mobile device is better if it is deeply social. We’re working across the entire mobile industry, with operators, hardware manufacturers, OS providers, and application developers to bring powerful social experiences to more people around the world.”

To help design its phone, Facebook has hired several people who were involved in the development of Apple’s devices, including Greg Novick, who helped create touchscreen interfaces; Tim Omernick and Chris Tremblay, who developed software; and Scott Goodson, who worked on a stock-market application.

Facebook and HTC have teamed up before. Last year, HTC worked closely with the social network before launching the Android-based ChaCha phone, which features a dedicated Facebook button for sharing music, pictures, and messages.

It’s thought that Facebook’s smartphone will use a forked version of Android.

Netflix CEO suggests partnership with HBO, but HBO quickly nixes the idea

In a letter to Netflix shareholders Tuesday, the company’s chief executive, Reed Hastings, floated the possibility of a partnership with HBO.

“While we compete for content and viewing time with HBO, it is also possible we will find opportunities to work together – just as we do with other networks,” Hastings said in the letter.

So can Netflix subscribers look forward to streaming HBO original series like “Boardwalk Empire” or “Game of Thrones”? Sadly, no. Not anytime soon, at least.

Dashing the hopes of Netflix users everywhere, HBO spokesman Jeff Cusson said, “We are not in discussions and have no plans to work with Netflix.”

Translation: If you want to stream HBO’s content, you’ll have to do it through the company’s on-demand service, HBO Go.

AOL’s second-quarter revenue was down 2 percent year over year, but that’s the smallest drop in 7 years

AOL’s second-quarter haul, posted Wednesday, beat analysts’ expectations. The company reported earnings of $10.17 per share on revenue of $531 million. Wall Street predicted AOL would take in $519 million over the three-month period.

Although AOL reported 2 percent less revenue than the year-ago quarter, the company noted that the decline was its smallest in seven years.

What’s more, total traffic was up 5 percent year over year to 112 million unique visitors.

In a statement, AOL CEO Tim Armstrong said, “Today’s results represent a significant milestone for AOL as we returned to Adjusted OIBDA growth for the first time in four years. The strong results and consumer performance we announced today are clear signs our strategic and operating efforts are translating into significant financial progress.”

Twitter working on way to let users search through every tweet they’ve ever made

Twitter CEO Dick Costolo told The New York Times Tuesday that users will eventually be able to access even their oldest tweets.

“We’re working on a tool to let users export all of their tweets,” Costolo said. “You’ll be able to download a file of them.”

Currently, Twitter users can only see the last few thousand posts they made.

But while Twitter plans to remove that limitation in the future, it won’t let users look back at everything ever posted to the micro-blogging site.

“It’s two different search problems,” Costolo said. “It’s a different way of architecting search, going through all tweets of all time. You can’t just put three engineers on it.”

OS X Mountain Lion, Apple’s newest operating system for Mac, finally arrives

More than five months after Apple first spread the word about its latest desktop operating system, OS X 10.8 Mountain Lion finally landed Wednesday, and if you’ve got a late-model Mac, you can upgrade for just $19.99.

Following in the footsteps of iOS, Mountain Lion includes Notes, Reminders, Game Center, AirPlay, and Twitter integration, among other new features. It also boasts Gatekeeper, a security feature meant to protect users from malware.

Here’s what you’ll need to have in order to run Mountain Lion:

  • iMac (mid-2007 or newer)
  • MacBook (late 2008 aluminum, or early 2009 or newer)
  • MacBook Pro (mid/late 2007 or newer)
  • MacBook Air (late 2008 or newer)
  • Mac mini (early 2009 or newer)
  • Mac Pro (early 2008 or newer)
  • Xserve (early 2009)

EU case against Google could have global implications

Google, which is under investigation by the EU Competition Commission for allegedly promoting its own services over rivals’ as well for copying material from other websites, could be forced to change its practices worldwide, according to Reuters.

Speaking at a news conference Wednesday,  EU Competition Commissioner Joaquin Almunia said, “We will look for worldwide solutions, it will not be very useful to get European-wide solutions.”

To comply with the Commission’s demands and avoid a lengthy and potentially very costly court battle – Microsoft was fined more than a billion euros by the Commission – the search giant has reportedly revised its concession proposal to encompass all platforms, including computers, tablets, and mobile devices.

Google spokesman Al Verney said the company is “continuing to work cooperatively with the European Commission.”

Google’s search engine is responsible for nearly 80 percent of all Internet searches in Europe.

Flirting with iOS after three years with Android

Recently I’ve been thinking about giving the iPhone 5 a whirl when it comes out later this year. I had an iPhone 3G back in the day and loved it, but I switched to Android when I started working on apps, and now I’ve owned the G1, the Nexus One, the Nexus S, and the Galaxy Nexus, which is my current phone.

Since I’m noodling a move back to iOS, I thought I’d make a list of things that I’ll miss about Android — things that might make my shiny new iPhone 5 end up on Ebay.

Better yet, there might be some folks out there who have workarounds for some of my complaints about iOS. But before you suggest it, I’m not too interested in jailbreaking my phone to get access to some of these things in iOS.  I don’t want the tech-support headaches.

ios 6 siri Flirting with iOS after three years with Android

Keyboard

Android allows third-party keyboards, and I absolutely love Swype.  I find tracing my finger across the keys vastly superior to all hunt-and-peck keyboards, including the one in iOS.  Swype feels just “magical” when the correct word pops up on the screen.

Settings automation

Locale is hands down my favorite app for Android, and there’s nothing comparable on iOS.  I use it to change phone settings like 3G data, volume, and ringtone, based on conditions like location, time, Wi-Fi, plugging in headphones, and more.  It’s fantastic.

I used to hate when my phone went off in a meeting. Now I don’t even think about it.

Sharing

I do a lot of online reading on my phone and I often want to save, share, or post my current browser URL to a different app.  Android apps can register themselves for “sharing” and then they appear in the list of options to share a URL from the browser.

I can send URLs to Pocket, Dropbox, Evernote, Gmail, Twitter, Facebook, and a whole host of other app providers with one click.

On iOS, the options are basically email, SMS, Twitter, and Facebook.  That’s going to suck.

share android Flirting with iOS after three years with Android

Drag-and-drop

I cringe every time I open iTunes on my MacBook to copy a song or movie onto my iPad.

It’s so much simpler on Android.  I just connect my phone via Micro-USB cable and drag-and-drop files directly onto my phone in the Finder.

The same goes for photos.  It’s a ton better for me to drag-and-drop photos onto my computer versus opening up iPhoto and “importing them.”

Wi-Fi hotspot

I really love being able to spin up a hotspot on my phone when I’m out and about.  I’m not a heavy user, but when I need it I’m really psyched to have it.

With iOS, I’ll end up using Tether or one of the other paid options for iPhone.

Google Maps

Google Maps has been a killer feature for Android over the past few years, thanks in large part to turn-by-turn driving directions.

From the iOS 6 beta versions I’ve been playing with, it looks like Apple Maps is a reasonable replacement.  But they don’t have transit directions (yet), so I’ll need a second app for that.

I’m also a big fan of the +/- buttons in Google Maps on Android.  I use pinch-to-zoom too, but I like the option to just hit the on-screen button, especially when I have something else in my second hand.

Help

If you’re an iOS user and can point me to apps or tweaks that’ll help me make the switch, I’d love to hear ‘em.

Full disclosure: I used to be a product manager at Google but I’m agnostic when it comes to phones.