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Category: HTML5

CES 2012: GM to launch OnStar API for apps that can control cars [Video]

General Motors, Ford, Mercedes, Subaru and even QNX (owned by Research In Motion) each showed off their respectively differing approaches to getting apps into the dashboards of our cars at the 2012 Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas this week.

And while the idea of apps in the car is a dream for some, so far, most of the apps center around replicating smartphone or tablet experiences from the driver's seat.

OnStar RemoteLink app for iOS

OnStar, the GM-owned telematics company, has a slightly different idea to piggyback off the work developers are doing building apps for use in both smartphones and cars.

OnStar wants developers to create apps that use its wireless service to actually control cars in new ways that utilize what it already can do -- automatic crash response, stolen vehicle tracking, turn-by-turn navigation and roadside assistance for subscribers of its wireless in-car assistance service.

This isn't Google's self-driving car but rather OnStar is hoping developers will follow what it started when it launched its OnStar RemoteLink app for Apple iPhones and iPads last year.

OnStar RemoteLink enables users (who also own select 2010 or newer Cadillac, Chevrolet, Buick or GMC vehicles) to view real-time data such as mileage, fuel in the gas tank, oil life and tire pressure from their car or truck. The app also allows users to remotely unlock doors, honk horns, shine lights, start the engine and, of course, contact a dealer.

It's these sorts of capabilities that OnStar is now offering developers through its API, and the first developer to build on that is RelayRides, a neighbor to car-sharing service. A new RelayRides app, which we got a preview of at CES (as seen int he video above), will launch later this year on Apple's iOS and allow car owners to unlock their cars remotely after the person renting their vehicle arrives, or even track where a renter has taken their car.

OnStar's API isn't yet available to all developers; company officials said that would take place in the first half of this year, but what RelayRides is working on shows a bit of its potential. GM said at CES that any developers interested in using the OnStar API should email the company at developers@onstar.com.

RelayRides says its new OnStar integrated app, in both an iOS and Android-friendly HTML5 form, will launch "early this year."

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-- Nathan Olivarez-Giles

Nathan Olivarez-Giles on Google+

Twitter.com/nateog

Image: A screenshot of OnStar's RemoteLink app for Apple's iOS. Credit: OnStar

Adobe ending mobile Flash Player, cutting 750 jobs

Adobe Flash Player in the Android Market

Your smartphone's and tablet's web browser will likely be Flash-free in the future, if it isn't already.

Adobe Systems Inc. said Wednesday that it is ending its development of the Flash Player plug-in for mobile devices and will instead shift its resources and third-party partners to its Adobe AIR software and HTML5 technologies for interactive websites, apps and video playback.

Word of the shift away from Flash on mobile devices was first reported by the website ZDNet and later confirmed in a company blog post by Danny Winokur, Adobe's vice president of interactive development.

"Over the past two years, we've delivered Flash Player for mobile browsers and brought the full expressiveness of the web to many mobile devices," Winokur said. "However, HTML5 is now universally supported on major mobile devices, in some cases exclusively. This makes HTML5 the best solution for creating and deploying content in the browser across mobile platforms.

"We are excited about this, and will continue our work with key players in the HTML community, including Google, Apple, Microsoft and RIM, to drive HTML5 innovation they can use to advance their mobile browsers."

Adobe will shift its resources toward giving Flash developers the tools to turn their Flash files into native apps for mobile operating systems with Adobe AIR.

"We will no longer continue to develop Flash Player in the browser to work with new mobile device configurations (chipset, browser, OS version, etc.) following the upcoming release of Flash Player 11.1 for Android and BlackBerry PlayBook," Winokur said. "We will of course continue to provide critical bug fixes and security updates for existing device configurations. We will also allow our source code licensees to continue working on and release their own implementations."

The changes will allow the San Jose-based company to increase its investment in HTML5 "and innovate with Flash where it can have most impact for the industry," he said.

The news of the Flash strategy change followed a Tuesday announcement in which Adobe said that it will cut 750 jobs as part of a company restructuring.

"In order to better align resources around Digital Media and Digital Marketing, Adobe is restructuring its business," the company said in a statement. "This will result in the elimination of approximately 750 full-time positions primarily in North America and Europe."

The layoffs and other changes, such as "the consolidation of leased facilities" and severance payouts, will cost Adobe somewhere between $87 million and $94 million in pretax restructuring charges, the statement said.

"We expect to record approximately $73 million to $78 million of these charges in the fiscal quarter ending Dec. 2, 2011," Adobe said, also adding that it has dropped its expected earnings per share down to a range of 30 cents to 38 cents in the quarter from a previous projection of 41 cents to 50 cents.

Despite all the changes, Adobe said it is forecasting that its revenue will be unaffected and come in between $1.08 billion to $1.13 billion.

Adobe's move to discontinue Flash for mobile web browsers will (and has already) be seen as proof that late Apple Chief Executive Steve Jobs' stance that Flash doesn't belong on phones and tablets has won out.

Adobe and Apple have at time been business partners, but with the release of Apple's iPhone, iPod Touch and iPad all without any Flash capabilities, the two companies were also in a public disagreement over Flash's role in an increasingly mobile computing future.

Jobs famously penned a blunt letter posted on Apple's website called "Thoughts on Flash" in April 2010, criticizing Flash and Adobe's dedication to dump the technology.

The Apple co-founder wrote that "Flash was created during the PC era -- for PCs and mice. Flash is a successful business for Adobe, and we can understand why they want to push it beyond PCs. But the mobile era is about low power devices, touch interfaces and open web standards -- all areas where Flash falls short."

Adobe has since introduced products that allow developers to take what they've created in Flash and convert those files into i-device-compatible formats, such as Adobe Edge and Adobe Wallaby, which can be used to convert files into HTML5.

Apple isn't the only company that has made moves that stem the adoption of Flash on the Web. Microsoft said in a developer blog post from September that its Internet Explorer 10 browser in WIndows 8, launching next year on tablets and PCs, will support Web plug-ins on PCs, but not tablets.

While Microsoft didn't call out Flash by name the way that Jobs did more than a year earlier, the message was clear -- Microsoft, too, believes that Flash and other plug-ins were on their way out.

"For the Web to move forward and for consumers to get the most out of touch-first browsing, the Metro style browser in Windows 8 is as HTML5-only as possible, and plug-in free," Microsoft said in the post. "The experience that plug-ins provide today is not a good match with Metro style browsing and the modern HTML5 web."

[Updated 10:27 A.M.: Cynthia Fetty, a spokeswoman for Adobe and working for the Edelman PR agency, said in an email that Adobe isn't ending all Flash mobile development, as indicated by an earlier headline on this post that read "Adobe ending mobile Flash development, cutting 750 jobs."

Rather, Fetty clarified, Adobe is ending development of the Flash Player plug-ins for mobile browsers.

"Adobe will only discontinue the development of Flash for mobile browsers," she said. "Future work around Flash for mobile devices will focus on enabling developers to deliver apps via AIR and innovating with Flash where it can have the most impact including 3D gaming and premium video."]

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-- Nathan Olivarez-Giles

Twitter.com/nateog

Image: A screen shot of Adobe Flash Player in the Android Market. Credit: Google

Mozilla releases Firefox 8 with built-in Twitter search

Mozilla Firefox 8 download page

Mozilla released Firefox 8, the latest version of its Web browser, with one feature that is sure to get notice by social media fans -- built-in Twitter search.

"Twitter is now included as a search option in Firefox for Windows, Mac and Linux," Mozilla said in a blog post Tuesday detailing updates found in Firefox 8, many of which are under the hood.

Firefox 8 users can search topics, hashtags and user names on Twitter from within the browser's search box (located just to the right of the URL box). The Twitter search feature is available in English, Japanese, Portuguese and Slovenian, and Mozilla is promising more languages to be added in the future.

With the update, Twitter joins Google, Yahoo, Bing, Amazon.com, eBay and Wikipedia as search options built-into Firefox.

Aside from Twitter search, Mozilla promises that Firefox 8 will be faster than previous versions with improved support for HTML5 and WebGL, "a new Web standard that allows websites and Web apps to display hardware-accelerated 3D graphics without third-party software."

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-- Nathan Olivarez-Giles

Twitter.com/nateog

Image: A screen shot of Mozilla's Firefox 8 download page. Credit: Mozilla

BlackBerry announces BBX operating system for phones, tablets

Mike Lazaridis, co-CEO of RIM

Research In Motion announced BBX, the next operating system for BlackBerry smartphones and tablets, at its BlackBerry DevCon Americas 2011 convention.

BBX will be based on QNX, the current operating system found on the BlackBerry PlayBook tablet. But, like Apple's iOS and Google's Android Ice Cream Sandwich operating systems, BBX will be one operating system across devices.

RIM said on its developer blog Tuesday that BBX will combine "the best of the BlackBerry platform and the best of the QNX platform to to connect people, devices, content and services."

Current BlackBerry smartphones are running BlackBerry OS 7, which has brought increased touchscreen-based controls to new RIM handsets. Although touch input for most current BlackBerrys is a feature, BBX will make touch input the focus.

BBX will also usher in the long-promised ability to run Android apps on BlackBerry devices. It will also run native BBX apps, apps developed using Adobe's AIR software and HTML5 apps, RIM said in a statement. Anything developed for QNX will run on BBX, RIM said.

But while RIM made the next BlackBerry operating system official, the company offered up few details on the new software outside of how developers will be able to build for it. RIM hasn't yet said when the first BBX smartphones will arrive.

However, the first BBX tablet is already here -- that'd be the PlayBook tablet that launched in March and has yet to catch on with consumers.

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-- Nathan Olivarez-Giles

Twitter.com/nateog

Photo: Mike Lazaridis, president and co-CEO of Research In Motion, announces BlackBerry's BBX operating system Tuesday at the BlackBerry DevCon convention in San Francisco. Credit: Beck Diefenbach/Reuters

Motorola announces ET1 Enterprise Tablet for businesses

Motorola ET1 Enterprise Tablet

Motorola introduced a new mobile slate Monday -- the ET1 Enterprise Tablet.

But the ET1, as the "enterprise" in the name would suggest, won't be showing up for sale at Best Buy. The ET1 is built for businesses, specifically retail businesses. Rather than on the shelf at a consumer electronics store, Motorola wants the ET1 in the hands of retail employees.

It will be produced and marketed by Motorola Solutions, the business-focused half of Motorola. 

Motorola ET1 side viewMotorola Solutions is the half of Motorola that Google is not trying to buy. The half Google wants is Motorola Mobility, which makes consumer products such as the Droid Bionic phone and Xoom tablet.

The ET1 will also be very different from an average consumer-grade tablet and will be able to "withstand multiple bumps and drops during a workday," Motorola said in a statement.

Featuring a 7-inch touch screen, the ET1 will be marketed not with Angry Birds in mind as much as for use in a business. It has options such as a bar-code scanner and magnetic stripe reader for swiping credit cards.

Unlike Apple's iPad or Samsung's Galaxy Tab, the ET1 will feature removable battery packs and a "memory backup battery" that retains recently used data for up to 15 minutes after the device's battery pack is removed.

Front and rear cameras, Bluetooth technology, mobile-payment readers and mobile printers can also work with the ET1, as well as a hand strap "for comfortable full-shift handling."

"Intended for demanding day-long use, the Wi-Fi-enabled ET1 is password-protected so it can be easily shared and instantly provisioned for each employee according to his or her level of responsibility and access rights," Motorola Solutions said. "Based on log-in information, managers can automatically control and monitor use of approved applications to help ensure on-the-job productivity is not compromised."

Like products from Motorola Mobility, the ET1 will run a modified version of Google's Android operating system that runs Android apps as well as apps built specifically for business use, built in HTML5. Motorola Solutions has launched app development software called RhoElements that "makes it easier for your associates to use the same applications regardless of device or operating systems."

Motorola didn't say how much the ET1 will cost, which will surely vary depending on the options a business chooses. But given that the ET1 is targeted toward businesses, one would hope there is a bulk rate.

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-- Nathan Olivarez-Giles

twitter.com/nateog

Images: The Motorola Solutions ET1 Enterprise Tablet. Credit: Motorola Solutions

AP's iCircular puts Sunday coupons in Times app, mobile site

ICircular

The Associated Press and 40 newspapers, including the Los Angeles Times, are taking one of the print industry's largest revenue sources, preprinted advertising inserts, to the mobile, digital world.

The AP's iCircular business will embed coupons and advertisements like those found bulking up the Sunday editions of newspapers into the mobile websites and apps of newspapers on smartphones and tablets.

The digital coupons and ads began rolling out to newspaper mobile sites on Monday in a testing phase, the AP said.

"You've always relied on your Sunday newspaper ads for great deals and savings. Now you can have the best of both worlds -- look at your inserts at home, then take them with you on your mobile phone," the AP said, describing its iCircular business in a statement.

The ads and inserts can be accessed through a newspaper's app or mobile site in a new built-in "deals" tab. A tap of that tab on the touchscreen devices and "you'll find all of the merchandise and products contained in your weekly preprint -- browse retailers' store ads and view product information, plus you'll be able to make a shopping list, get directions to the closest store, share with family and friends, plus many other great features and tools," the AP said.

Preprinted advertising and coupon inserts are one of the few major revenue sources for the newspaper industry, which, as noted by the site PaidContent.org, has experienced 20 consecutive quarters of advertising revenue declines.

iCircular is available to newspapers as essentially a pre-built addition that can be added to a newspaper's mobile site or app, sort of the same way that the advertising circulars are preprinted and inserted into newspapers themselves. Currently, iCircular is available as an HTML 5 insert for mobile site or an insert for apps built for Apple's iOS, which runs on the iPhone and iPad. An Android version of iCircular isn't yet built, but the AP is working on it, PaidContent said.

The program is open to all newspapers, not just papers that pay the AP for its wire service of photos, stories and video, though the AP didn't offer details on how much iCircular might cost a newspaper to implement. During the testing phase, the mobile ads are free to retailers and will later become an advertising option alongside the preprinted circulars.

For now, 20 national retailers are taking part in the iCircular testing phase, such as JCPenney, Kohl's, Kmart, Macy’s, Staples, Target, Toys R Us, Walgreens and Wal-Mart. Some regional and local retailers, such as supermarkets, are taking part in the testing phase as well.

Among the other newspapers taking part are the Chicago Tribune (which, like the L.A. Times, is owned by the Tribune Co.), New York Daily News, Philadelphia Inquirer, Dallas Morning News, San Francisco Chronicle, Boston Globe, Atlanta Journal-Constitution and "other representatives of nearly every major newspaper company," the AP said.

So, can print coupons and ads be successfully translated onto a three- or four-inch smartphone screen? Will this give readers a reason to not buy the Sunday newspaper?

Rick Edmonds, a writer for the Poynter Institute who does research on the business side of journalism, said in a blog post that iCircular looked good after he was able to demo the digital insert last week.

The preview, and an interview with those heading up the iCircular business, "left me convinced that more than a year of tinkering in the lab has produced a credible digital replica of the printed insert," Edmonds said in a blog post.

"I don't have a crystal-ball prediction on whether iCircular will fly high or flop," he added. But, "a significant presence in smart-phone commerce would count as an important business win for an industry that hasn't had many lately."

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-- Nathan Olivarez-Giles

Twitter.com/nateog

Image: Screen shots of the AP's iCircular advertising and coupon inserts in the mobile apps of the Fort Worth Star-Telegram and the Quad City Times. Credit: Associated Press iCircular

HTML5 apps vs. native apps: Amazon, Box.net choose both [Video]

Screen Shot 2011-08-13 at 10.21.57 AM

HTML5 or native apps? This can be a tough question for mobile developers.

Does a developer build applications for HTML 5 or Apple's iOS? Google Android, BlackBerry (and its different mobile operating systems), Microsoft Windows Phone or HP WebOS? Or for all of these different platforms?

The debate between native apps and Web apps is one we've covered on the Technology blog, and even a bit on our sister blog Company Town. And as of now, there is no definite winner.

Amazon's release of Kindle Cloud Reader, an HTML5 app that looks and works a lot like Amazon's Kindle app for the iPad, is an example of a Web app done right. Cloud Reader offers one difference that justifies Amazon building it; users can buy books from within the app, something they can't do in the iOS app.

Box.net released a new HTML5 app this week, as well as an update to its Android app and a new BlackBerry app for its cloud hosting service aimed at business users. Here too the reason cited for building an HTML5 Web app was control –- control over how the app looked and worked across all mobile platforms.

In both cases, and many more, HTML5 apps offer companies more control over the look, feel and money making abilities of their app.

There are downsides, too. HTML5 doesn't work with every browser out there -- Cloud Reader is confined to Apple Safari and Google Chrome for now, while Box.net's Web app is available only on mobile devices. And app stores for Web apps don't match the ability to boost an app's success the way Apple's App Store and Google's Android Market do, yet.

But what do you think? As a user, do you prefer native apps or Web apps? If you're a developer, which do you choose to build?

Sound off in the comments below and check out the video below where we show off a few Kindle Cloud Reader and a few other HTML5 apps. 

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Photo: DeviantArt's Muro HTML5 Web app -- a drawing app -- is demonstrated on an Apple iPad 2. Credit: Armand Emamdjomeh/Los Angeles Times

Box.net launches apps for Android, BlackBerry PlayBook, HTML5

Box for Android on a Honeycomb tablet

When a business wants to store or share documents in the cloud, Box.net wants to be the first firm companies go to to make that happen.

With that in mind, Box.net launched new apps on Thursday for Google's Android mobile OS, Research In Motion's BlackBerry Playbook (which runs on a RIM-built operating system called QNX) and a new HTML5 Web app accessible on any smart phone or tablet.

The Palo Alto, Calif., start-up has been able to gain more than 1 million mobile users with an iOS app, integration into HP's WebOS as the default cloud storage method, and its Box.net website, but that's not enough, said Aaron Levie, co-founder and CEO of the company.

"Since we're an enterprise-focused company, we've been working all year on making sure we hit every platform an enterprise might need and now we're able to make that happen," Levie said in an interview. "We've seen a 600% increase in enterprise sales on the mobile side this year. And that's because there are a lot of consumer cloud options which are perfectly fine being constrained to one platform or another, but for businesses, you need to have that flexibility, and nobody else is offering what we're now offering."

The PlayBook app is Box.net's first native app for any BlackBerry platform, while the company's new Android app, which works on both phones and tablets, replaces an older Android app designed only for phones.

One native app missing so far is one for Microsoft's Windows Phone 7 OS. Users of that platform will have to rely on Box.net's HTML5 Web app, which Levie says offers all the same features of the native apps but can be accessed through any mobile device's Web browser at m.box.net.

Levie pointed to Proctor & Gamble's decision to use Box for its business as an example of how important it is for a company such as his to be available on the multitude of mobile devices in the marketplace.

"Procter & Gamble deployed about 18,000 users on Box, and the driver for that was being able to get to content on mobile platforms," he said. "Today, there are effectively five competing platforms that are all powerful, can all access content, can all access and manage contacts and email. And now we are available on all those platforms, and with HTML5, we have a standard across all platforms."

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Image: A screenshot of Box.net's Android app on a tablet running Android Honeycomb. Credit: Box.net

Amazon Kindle Cloud Reader app bypasses Apple's rules

Amazon Kindle Cloud Reader app on an Apple iPad

Amazon's new Kindle Cloud Reader is exactly the sort of iPad app Apple isn't allowing in its App Store.

Built in HTML5, running on the Web and not just iOS, the Kindle Cloud Reader Web app enables Kindle users to not only read e-books they buy from Amazon but buy books from within the app itself.

Unlike Amazon's native iOS Kindle app, Kindle Cloud Reader skips the App Store and iTunes. No downloads required. All that needs to be done to get the Cloud Reader on an iPad is to open Safari and type the right URL, www.amazon.com/cloudreader.

But while users may see a big advantage in being able to read a book from the cloud (i.e. the Internet) and buy a new book all in the same app -- as Kindle Cloud Reader offers -- the real winner here could end up being Amazon.

That's because anything sold through Apple's App Store or iTunes gives Apple a 30% cut of revenue. Amazon, the world's largest online retailer, isn't too keen on forking over a portion of its sales, and Kindle Cloud Reader gives Amazon a book-selling iPad app that it can have full control over.

Apple doesn't allow the buying of digital content (books, video, music, etc.) from within an app unless that content is sold through iTunes and the App Store -- unless that content is delivered in a subscription, as magazines or newspapers are. Apple's iOS app rules don't allow an app to link to an outside website where users can buy anything, which is why Amazon removed a link to its Kindle store from its iOS Kindle app and Barnes & Noble did the same with its Nook app.

The HTML5 app, which also works with Apple's Safari and Google's Chrome browsers on Macs and PCs (no Firefox, Opera or IE support yet), gives Amazon and its customers a way to get around the App Store restrictions.

Amazon isn't the only company looking to HTML5 for an App Store workaround -- Wal-Mart's Vudu is doing the same with its video storefront and Rdio last week skipped the "Apple tax," as some call it.

As HTML5 becomes more popular for building websites and Web apps, we can probably expect to see more Web apps to pop up that also set their own rules.

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Image: A screen shot of the Amazon Kindle Cloud Reader HTML5 app on an Apple iPad. Credit: Amazon /Apple

Facebook photo-sharing app in development for Apple's iPhone? [Updated]

TechCrunch Facebook photo app

Facebook may be building a photo-sharing app for smartphones and tablets, in a bid against social networking apps from Instagram, Hipstamatic, Path and even Twitter.

The Palo Alto-based social network is the world's most widely used, with an estimated user base of more than 600 million, and it's also the most popular photo-sharing website, with more than 100 million photos uploaded daily.

According to the website TechCrunch, Facebook is developing an app for Apple's iOS operating system (used on the iPhone, iPod Touch and iPad) that would allow users to take and edit photos, then share the shots on Facebook.

In Facebook fashion, users would also be able to "like" photos from friends, tag people they know in pictures, check-in to locations, comment on shots and group photos into albums, TechCrunch said, adding that the site was given screenshots of the app from an unnamed source at the social network.

The screenshots don't make it clear whether Facebook is building a standalone photo-sharing app, a Web-based HTML 5 app, or simply adding the new photo taking and sharing functions to the pre-existing Facebook iOS app, TechCrunch said, adding that maybe they're doing all three.

Facebook officials were unavailable for comment on the report on Wednesday.

[Updated 4:11 p.m.: A Facebook spokeswoman emailed along a company statement that neither confirmed nor denied the TechCrunch report, stating: "We're constantly working on new features and enhancements to our products but have nothing new to announce at this time."]

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Image: A screenshot of TechCrunch's report on a rumored Facebook photo-sharing app under development. Credit: TechCrunch

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