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from the L.A. Times

Category: HTML5

Microsoft previews Windows 8 for tablets and PCs

Windows 8 start screen

Microsoft offered up a preview of its next operating system, which is being given the code name Windows 8 for now, and which is set to run on both tablets and PCs.

One operating system for tablets, laptops and desktops; one operating system that will work by means of a touch interface, or with the traditional mouse and keyboard.

At first glance, Windows 8 looks a lot like the Windows Phone 7 operating system, which has its roots in the OS found on Microsoft's iPod challenger that never caught on as hoped -- the Zune.

"Windows 8 is a reimagining of Windows, from the chip to the interface," said Julie Larson-Green, Microsoft's corporate vice president of Windows experience, in a blog post. "A Windows 8-based PC is really a new kind of device, one that scales from touch-only small screens through to large screens, with or without a keyboard and mouse."

Larson-Green, alongside Windows unit President Steven Sinofsky, showed off the under-development Windows 8 at the All Things Digital Conference conference on Wednesday, on a tablet.

The new user interface uses a "start screen" which offers up a series of live tiles for applications that show up-to-date information -- much like Windows Phone 7's OS. Tapping on any of the live tiles takes a user into that app, while a swipe from the sides (right, left, top or bottom) will bring up various menu options (somewhat similar to the tactic Research In Motion uses on its BlackBerry PlayBook tablet).

The apps from the live tiles that Microsoft showed off launched in full-screen modes, much like a tablet or smartphone and less like a PC. And Microsoft also touted a system they had to easily switch between open apps, all running at the same time, simply with swipe gestures and with no need to return to the start screen.

Windows 8 running two apps at the same time on a tablet Two apps can even run in the same window view -- a feature that other tablet operating systems have yet to offer.

The touch-centric apps shown off, Larson-Green said, run on HTML5 and JavaScript (running on Internet Explorer 10 behind the scenes), allowing developers to use the same tools to build apps for Windows 8 as they use to build websites. These apps are "Web-connected and Web-powered apps" that still have access to the full PC -- a sort of hybrid between a Web-based app and a native desktop app.

If a user prefers the less touch-centric user interface, the old task bar along the bottom of the screen and the traditional Windows start button in the lower left corner of that bar can still be used as an alternative, Larson-Green and Sinofsky said at the conference.

And indeed, the old Windows does appear to be there, likely making Windows 8 not a completely new OS from the ground up, but rather a new user interface put on top of Windows as consumers already know it.

Windows 8 running Microsoft Word and showing its file system When Larson-Green tapped to open Microsoft Excel at the conference, it was still usable with touch input, but the familiar task bar and start button popped up, looking just like a Windows 7 desktop.

And with a swipe, it was back to Windows 8's live tiles and other full-screen apps.

Windows 8, while it will run on tablets and PCs, will give users more options when it comes to attaching peripherals to devices, such as external hard drives, printers and scanners, and it will also give users more access to the files they have by still using a viewable file system like Windows and not keeping files confined in apps themselves in the way that iOS and Android do, Sinofsky said at the conference.

While Steve Ballmer, Microsoft's chief executive, said recently that Windows 8 would arrive in 2012 on PCs and tablets (all claims that Microsoft later retracted, before saying Windows 8 would run on tablets and PCs Wednesday), Sinofsky and Larson-Green declined to offer a specific date or year when Windows 8 would arrive.

"Right now we're focused on getting the release done and the next milestone for us is the developer conference in September," Sinofsky said at the conference. "Every two to three years is a good release."

Which, with Windows 7 having been released in 2009, could peg Windows 8 for 2012.

Below is a video demo of Windows 8 posted by Microsoft on YouTube on Wednesday.

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-- Nathan Olivarez-Giles

twitter.com/nateog

Images: Screenshots from a Microsoft demo video of Windows 8. Credit: Microsoft

Twitter on iPhone, Android Web browsers looks and works like an app

Twitter has redesigned its mobile website using HTML5,turning it into a Web app, which allows the social network's mobile site to look and act more like the native Twitter apps available on smartphones.

M5-screenshot-1b[1] "We want you to be able to access Twitter no matter where you are; regardless of what device you use; or, whether you prefer to access Twitter through a mobile application or the browser," said Carolyn Penner, a spokeswoman for the microblogging site. "This Web app allows us to provide a high-quality and consistent Twitter experience on high-end touchscreen devices -- whether or not an official Twitter application is available."

Penner said in a blog post about the update that Twitter scrapped its old mobile site and built the new version "from the ground up for smartphones and tablets, which have more advanced browsers that support the latest Web technologies, including HTML5."

The same functions found in Twitter's smartphone apps are there in the HTML5 mobile site, including the ability to quickly scroll through a user's timeline, move between tabs to see @mentions and direct messages, search and view trending topics and lists, and of course, write Tweets, she said.

But the HTML5 verison of the mobile site can't yet be viewed on every smartphone on the market, Penner said.

On Wednesday, the update was available "to a small percentage of users on iPhone, iPod Touch and Android smartphones," she said. "We'll be rolling it out to additional folks with those devices in the coming weeks. "

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HTML5 logo unveiled by the World Wide Web Consortium, with help from Microsoft

-- Nathan Olivarez-Giles

twitter.com/nateog

HTML5 logo unveiled by the World Wide Web Consortium, with help from Microsoft

HTML5_Logo_512

The World Wide Web Consortium -- also known as the W3C -- released its logo for HTML5 on Tuesday, with the help of Microsoft.

The World Wide Web Consortium is a collaboration of sorts in which corporations including Apple, Google, Microsoft and Opera and nonprofits such as Mozilla contribute to international Internet standards. In all, the W3C has 322 member organizations.

The W3C's HTML5 logo, the group hopes, will be placed on websites built using HTML5, the programming language and technologies that are still in development but becoming an increasingly popular standard for the Web.

The logo, an angular orange shield, was designed by the W3C with input from Microsoft. And Microsoft is already helping to promote the logo's use.

Html5-shirts Jean Paoli, Microsoft's general manager of interoperability, wrote in a blog post that "the logo links back to W3C, the place for authoritative information on HTML5, including specs and test cases. It's time to tell the world that HTML5 is ready to be adopted."

The logo can be downloaded and used or tweaked by anyone as he or she sees fit, under a Creative Commons license.

The W3C is giving away HTML5 logo stickers and selling logo t-shirts that read, "I've seen the future. It's in my browser."

"It stands strong and true, resilient and universal as the markup you write," the W3C wrote in introducing the logo. "It shines as bright and as bold as the forward-thinking, dedicated web developers you are. It's the standard's standard, a pennant for progress. And it certainly doesn't use tables for layout."

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-- Nathan Olivarez-Giles

twitter.com/nateog

Images: HTML5 logo and HTML5 logo T-shirts. Credit: World Wide Web Consortium

Flipboard's Mike McCue: Web format has 'contaminated' online journalism

Flipboard-mccue

Flipboard, the social magazine app for the iPad, seems to be having a flipping good run.

Last week, the famously design-conscious Apple Inc. named Flipboard its App of the Year. Then Wednesday, Chief Executive Mike McCue joined Twitter's board of directors. On Thursday, Flipboard released its first major update, allowing users to ''magazine-ify" a broader range of online content.

Flipboard can now make pleasant-looking, magazine-like pages from almost any site, including Facebook, Twitter, Flickr and thousands of blogs and news outlets. The app is becoming a new kind of reading-friendly, distraction-hostile browser, with the goal -- as McCue said in an interview Monday -- of "making the Web beautiful again."

It's generally agreed that the Web isn't a very good place to read. With constantly changing, amorphous formatting and an invariably ad-choked feel, the Web has never been able to replicate the quiet, unencumbered pleasure of reading in print. The trick, McCue says in the following excerpts, is to marry the best of print's aesthetic and the best of the Web's speed, reach, and mobility.

How can journalism benefit from the tablet? What can it do that the newspaper or the PC can't?

McCue: The problem with journalism on the Web today is that it's being contaminated by the Web form factor. What I mean is, journalists are being pushed to do things like slide shows -- stuff meant to attract page views. Articles themselves are condensed to narrow columns of text across 5, 6, 7 pages, and ads that are really distracting for the reader, so it's not a pleasant experience to 'curl up' with a good website.

Journalism is being pushed into a space where I don't think it should ever go, where it's trying to support the monetization model of the Web by driving page views. So what you have is a drop-off of long-form journalism, because long-form pieces are harder to monetize. And it's also hard to present that longer stuff to the reader because no one wants to wait four seconds for every page to load.

How can the tablet improve on that?

McCue: What the tablet does, for the first time, is let us hit the reset button on the presentation of content to readers.

So now you're getting these newspaper- and magazine-reading apps that do a much better job of showing the content on a full screen, and with nicer, larger advertisements.

Continue reading »

MOG's new Google app

MOG, subscription music services, Napster, Rhapsody, Rdio, online music The average music lover probably has zero interest in the workings of Google's Chrome apps. But based on what the subscription music service MOG is doing with its app, I'd say the technology could be a real boon to cloud-based music services.

The MOG app is a stripped-down version of MOG's site, letting users browse through a handful of charts and editors' picks or search for specific items from MOG's huge library. At its best it's wickedly fast and responsive -- searches yield results in the blink of an eye, songs start playing almost as soon as you double-click on their titles (with no need for a player to pop up in a separate window). That's a function of HTML5, the updated version of HTML used by Chrome apps, said MOG honcho David Hyman.

The faster the app responds to search and play requests, the closer it comes to replicating the performance of iTunes, which primarily plays songs from the user's hard drive (it can also tap a local network for tracks). Of course, MOG's advantage is that it has close to 10 million tracks in its library, which is, umm, a bit larger than the typical consumer's.

Missing is the rich overlay of content on the MOG site — the blog posts, reviews, videos, pictures and the like. Also absent are the site's personalization tools, such as the ability to build virtual collections and playlists. I missed the latter more than the former, frankly.

Hyman said the current version of the app is just a starting point, although it hints at where the company is headed as it overhauls its website. Future versions of the app will bring in more of the personalization features of the MOG site. They'll also take advantage of things that HTML5 can do that MOG's website can't, such as enabling drag-and-drop playlists and matching tracks on a user's hard drive with those in MOG's library.

Meanwhile, the site will evolve to look and function more like the app. "This is really going to be the new MOG," Hyman said.

MOG allows subscribers to play an unlimited number of songs from its online jukebox for a flat monthly fee. The Web-only service is $5 a month; for $10 a month, users can access the jukebox from mobile phones and cache songs to play when they're offline.

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-- Jon Healey

Healey writes editorials for The Times' Opinion Manufacturing Division.

 

Amazon lures authors with 70% royalty deal, and HTML5

When money talks, people tend to listen. In a bid to lure authors, Amazon.com on Wednesday said it would give writers 70% of the revenue, minus expenses, from their digital books sales on Amazon's Kindle store.

In addition, Amazon said it is giving authors the ability to sell their Kindle digital books on their own websites, using an Internet standard called HMTL5.

The two announcements are designed to attract authors who have not yet found a traditional publisher. In this case, Amazon would play the role of the publisher for the digital editions of the books. Writers could still contract separately with a print publisher.

But it's also a play for established authors who have not yet published electronic versions of their books. Many of those authors are haggling with their publishers over the royalty terms for digital books. That's because book contracts generally have clauses that touch on digital rights, but most don't specify royalty rates. Amazon is throwing down the gauntlet by promising to give authors 70% of the sale.

There's one other company that is attempting to jump into the void created by these contractual holes: Open Road Integrated Media, a digital publisher co-founded by Jane Friedman, former chief executive of HarperCollins Publishers. Among Open Road's authors are William Styron and Jack Higgins.

Amazon's proposal has a number of notable caveats. The first is that the 70% split occurs after Amazon subtracts a few pennies per copy for the cost of distributing the book over cellular wireless networks to devices that run Amazon's Kindle software. Second, authors must price the book between $2.99 and $9.99. Third, those prices must represent at least a 20% discount over the suggested price for any print edition. Finally, authors must agree to give Amazon terms that are as favorable or better than any other publisher for the same title.

So while Amazon's offer technically also extends to traditional book publishers such as Random House or Simon & Schuster, few are likely to bite. Au contraire, publishers are likely to see it as an attempt to nab authors in their stables who have not yet committed to a digital royalty rate. In that sense, publishers would view Amazon as a competitor, even as the mammoth online retailer is one of the industry's biggest seller of their books.

-- Alex Pham
twitter.com/alexpham

Adobe fires back at Apple with letter on 'open markets'

Adobe Who doesn't love some bickering between multibillion-dollar companies?

Adobe Systems returned fire on Apple on Thursday in an increasingly vociferous battle between the technology giants.

A couple of weeks after Apple Chief Executive Steve Jobs published his "Thoughts on Flash" on his company's website -- a 1,671-word piece lambasting Adobe's industry-leading Flash interactive Web plug-in -- Adobe's founders followed suit with "Our thoughts on open markets."

Signed by co-founders Chuck Geschke and John Warnock, the eight-paragraph letter doesn't specifically name Apple until the third-to-last sentence. It says that "closed systems" -- in other words, Apple's App Store -- will find that "their success will come at the expense of the very creativity and innovation that has made the Internet a revolutionary force."

"No company -- no matter how big or how creative -- should dictate what you can create, how you create it, or what you can experience on the web," Geschke and Warnock wrote.

Continue reading »

A Google-Adobe friendship is nothing new

Adobe Some are speculating that rumors of a new partnership between Google Inc. and Adobe Systems Inc. is part of a sordid love triangle, wherein the two companies are banding together in defiance of Apple Inc. In fact, Google and Adobe go way back.

ZDNet is reporting that Google may announce as early as Tuesday a deal that will package Adobe's Flash plug-in with versions of the big G's Chrome Web browser. As much as we'd like to grab a bag of popcorn and frame this as part of the fiery Apple vs. Google public affair, Adobe and the search giant have had close ties for some time.

Google maintains an integral role in defining the HTML5 spec -- the next version for the programming language that determines what websites can display. HTML5's video tag is believed to be a challenger to Flash's dominance of online video.

However, Google is also a member of the Open Screen Project, an Adobe-led cooperation between major technology and media companies. The initiative promotes Flash as a cross-device platform for enabling rich Internet applications.

Continue reading »

IPad might be the future, but without Flash, it could be alienating the present

Steve-jobs-ipad-flash
During the unveiling of the iPad, Apple Chief Executive Steve Jobs called it "the best way to browse the Web."

As long as you don't watch Web videos using Flash technology, and that's about 75% of the streamed content online.

Like the iPhone, the iPad won't support Adobe's Flash browser plug-in, which also is used for the majority of games, said the company's group manager of the platform, Adrian Ludwig.

Apple's gadgets might be able to live without Web games -- iPhone apps are generally more fully featured anyway -- but the dearth of video on the iPad is going to hurt. Thanks to a partnership between Apple and Google, YouTube videos can be tapped without Flash on the iPhone and iPad. But everything else -- Vimeo, Funny or Die, Break, Hulu -- is inaccessible.

The iPhone had a good excuse. The hardware wasn't quite up to the speed that a processor-intensive plug-in like Flash requires (despite the iPhone 3GS having "S" for "speed" in its name).

Adobe's Flash Lite is a stripped-down (a nicer way of saying "terrible") version of the plug-in for phones -- an unacceptable replacement and unsupported on the iPhone. Adobe is working with platform makers to create Flash 10 for Google's Android and Palm's WebOS, which powers the Pre and Pixi.

"If you look at makers of smart phones, we're working with 19 of the top 20 makers of smart phones to deliver Flash," Ludwig said.

Hm, wonder who the lone holdout is.

Continue reading »

A fight is breaking out among software developers: Web apps or native apps?

La-times-iphone-appThere's an ideological war being raged on the desktop and in your cellphone. You may not realize it, but you're actively taking sides ...

... every time you log into Gmail or fire up Outlook, when you launch LATimes.com in your mobile browser versus using our app, when you listen to music on Pandora's website instead of iTunes.

On one side is Loren Brichter, the maker of a wildly popular Twitter application for the iPhone called Tweetie.

Brichter builds dedicated apps that are designed for and catered to specific platforms. Tweetie takes advantage of iPhone-centric features and adheres to Apple-like design.

In the other corner is David Kaneda, a champion of up-and-coming Web technologies heavily reliant on the Javascript framework. In a public spat recently, Kaneda squawked at Brichter on Twitter and pledged to replicate Tweetie inside of a browser.

"I dare you," Brichter shot back from his Atebits Twitter profile. "PROVE ME WRONG BABY! NATIVE APPS 4EVA!"

OK, that's just about as geeky as it can get. But the underlying idea has profound effects on the way we interact with our computers.

Continue reading »
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