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Archive for April, 2009

Quickoffice puts an office in your pocket

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There may be bajillions of apps available on the iPhone App Store, but most of them are certainly not geared towards serious business use. Business users may be wondering if there are apps out there that aren’t flashlights or fart sound generators.

If that sounds like you, Quickoffice might be a breath of fresh air. A set of three interrelated applications — a word processor, spreadsheet app, and file manager — Quickoffice puts a Microsoft Office-compatible office suite in your pocket thanks to the world’s best smartphone.

TUAW has a full review, including a plethora of screenshots. Steven Sande puts all three apps through their paces, revealing a competent (if somewhat buggy) set of applications. Sande particularly likes Quickword’s copy and paste implementation, calling it “fun.”

Curiously, the Quickoffice suite is not compatible with files created by Apple’s iWork suite. It also does not allow saving of .docx or .xlsx files — though it can view both. Quickoffice is able to view and edit Office 2007 files on the Symbian platform. (Quickoffice also has a version for Android-powered smartphones.)

Read the rest of the TUAW review for more information. For business users looking to get some real work done on their iPhones, Quickoffice might be a solution, albeit an imperfect one.

Apple supposedly working on media pad, iPhone lite

There’s been a slight confirmation of all the rumors swirling around about a possible Apple tablet, from the pages of BusinessWeek no less. Now these are still unconfirmed rumors, but according the BusinessWeek’s source the upcoming device will “define the … category” of tablet media pads.

BusinessWeek writers Spencer E. Ante and Arik Hesseldahl have the full scoop, and include a few details about an “iPhone lite” smartphone Apple is supposedly developing for Verizon Wireless. The iPhone lite will be slightly smaller and thinner than the iPhone currently gracing AT&T’s network. Software or other capabilities are not mentioned, but BusinessWeek’s sources state that the device is manufactured using a “system on a chip” design and will therefore have an enormous profit margin. Apple is expected to continue manufacturing the original iPhone for AT&T while simultaneously selling Verizon iPhone lites.

The Apple tablet, or “media pad,” as it is dubbed by BusinessWeek, is another intriguing development. Supposedly slightly smaller than a Kindle and all touchscreen, the device would let users listen to music, view photos, and watch high-definition videos. The media pad will also let users place calls over Wi-fi using Voice-over-IP (VOIP) services. BusinessWeek’s source states that the media pad will define an entirely new category of consumer products.

One of these devices is expected to be released this year. Since Apple is already prepping a new version of the iPhone for this summer, it’s likely that the iPhone lite will wait. Apple may introduce the new media pad as a “one more thing” surprise at WWDC this summer. Developers would certainly need to adapt to the 10″ screen expected on the device.

There is definitely consumer interest in such a device as well. Apple is likely to use its iPhone OS on a media tablet, albeit a modified version targeted for a larger screen. If this tablet takes off, Apple will solidify mobile touch as the company’s second core computing platform. The company has been moving in the consumer electronics direction for years (since the original iPod’s introduction), but a new device midway between the iPod touch and a Macintosh signals that the company is preparing to put all its might behind the new touch platform.

(Via Engadget.)

The Apple tablet rumors are back!

There’s a lot of speculation floating around out there in the Mac blogosphere about two perennially interesting meta-machines: the mythical Apple tablet, and the lately-popular Mac netbook. Bloggers and technogeeks have been longing for Apple to release a product in either category, and signs lately appear to be trending towards a “no” for the netbook, but a “maybe” for the long-hoped-for Apple tablet.

First off is Apple prognosticator John Gruber, who recently wrote — almost as an aside — in post to his popular Daring Fireball blog:

Whatever they’re cooking up for this space, it will not be a Mac. I’m thinking iPhone OS (perhaps renamed) and a touch screen keyboard. (There must be some reason why the keyboard in iPhone OS 3.0 now appears to be rescaled dynamically i.e. rendered resolution independently.)

Gruber attached this parenthetical note-within-a-note to a link to a bit of speculation regarding Apple’s second-quarter conference call, in which Apple COO Tim Cook noted that the company saw no value at present in the netbook market segment.

While such a comment from another company might mean that the company simply isn’t interested in the netbook/tablet area, anything from the notoriously tightlipped Apple is going to get spun and speculated endlessly. The Apple Blog’s Darrell Etherington has a roundup of what’s been going around the blogosphere, including an intriguing (and probably fake) mockup of a possible tablet device.

Mac bloggers have been arriving at a rough consensus about this device: it will be based on the iPhone OS, will be bigger than the current iPhone/iPod touch, and will not have a physical keyboard. Since Apple already sells a small-sized Bluetooth keyboard, it’s within the realm of possibility that an Apple tablet would be able to pair with one to enable typing. At least, that looks like what’s going on in MacFormat_UK’s image. Of course, this summer’s iPhone update might bring the capability to pair with Bluetooth keyboards to the iPhone as well.

The phenomenal success of Apple’s App Store is another reason the company might consider expanding the iPhone OS into a tablet-type device. With an established application base, the company can expect to continue to have the sort of developer support they’d need to attract customers to such a device. The only potential downside is that, at tablet size, this supposed device loses its easy iTunes media portability features.

Apple isn’t a company to sit back and wait, so it’s likely the company is cooking up something. The success of the App Store makes it even more likely that the company will focus on the iPhone OS (or whatever they choose to call it) as the platform of the future. Time will tell, however, if the current frenzy of tablet speculation pans out, or if it will prove to be incorrect like all such speculation before it.

iPhone App Of The Day – Bowls

Bowls

If you’ve ever enjoyed te process of taking your finger and running it around anything glass, and hearing the sound you’ll love today’s app. Bowls is based off the Tibetan singing bowls, and have been known to provide listeners with a sense of calming. Having a stressful day at work, or with the kids just flip this on and make your own calm and relaxing melodies.

Bowls App Page

Voice dialing coming to iPhone 3.0

Voice dailing (and more) is coming to the iPhone with the OS 3.0 update. Users will not only be able to control the phone by speaking — it will talk back as well.

According to a report from Ars Technica’s Chris Foresman, the new features, code-named “Jibbler,” will be incorporated as enhancements to the SpringBoard app launcher program. Jibbler might be activated by squeezing the iPhone’s headset button and holding it while speaking. When released, the device will attempt to interpret what was said (i.e. “Call Mom”).

The phone will also likely include the same voice synthesis technology found in the new iPod shuffle, either by giving the user an auditory response — “Calling Mom” — or by “reading” data like CD track names back to the user. While the iPod shuffle’s voice prompts are pre-recorded the by the host computer, the iPhone would have the hardware muscle to render voices in real time.

None of these features would require new hardware, so they may just be one of the (probably many) unannounced features of the upcoming iPhone OS update. Ars also found some hooks in the iPhone’s code for accessing Jibbler, so these features may eventually be opened up to developers as well. Voice recognition features are already present in Google’s Search app, albeit handled by a third-party server, so there would certainly be a demand for voice capabilities from developers.

(Via Gizmodo.)

New iPhone OS beta features discovered

Apple released a third iPhone OS 3.0 beta to developers last week, and already interested parties have been investigating the new software to see if they can tease out any clues as to Apple’s future plans for its popular smartphone.

AppleInsider has a complete rundown, including extensive screenshots. Some of the highlights:

  • Safari will allow you to close out and clear all of open browser windows, even the last active one. Currently, users need to create a new, blank window in order to close out their final lone browser window. In beta 3, even the final window displays a red X button in the top left corner; clicking in causes the window to be quickly replaced with a fresh, blank one.

  • Users will have the option to display the phone’s remaining batter life as numerals, rather than a tiny battery icon. A set of .png resources in the new beta’s Springboard application show each of the numerals in both black and red; it is assumed that the red numerals will be used once battery life drops below a certain threshold. According to rumors, users will also be able to choose whether they want their remaining battery life to be displayed as an icon, numerals, or both — just as they can choose with the battery life on the desktop version of OS X.

  • A new preference pane allows users to disable any of the three types of push notifications (text alerts, sounds, and app icon badges) or turn the alerts off entirely to get a little extra juice out of the iPhone’s batteries.

  • Data Detectors — bits of smart code that auto detect things like street addresses or dates and let users do things with them — appear to be enabled as well, at least in the Notes application. Data Detectors are already part of the desktop Mac OS X and let users, for example, click on a street address in Mail.app and be taken to a Google map of the location in Safari.

  • More precise song scrubbing is coming to the iPod app. Currently, tap-and-drag scrubbing can’t match the precise scrubbing that physical iPod touch wheel makes possible. Apple is attempting to address this issue by letting different finger positions dictate different scrubbing speeds.

This is likely to be the final beta released by Apple to developers before the company unveils new hardware in June. Even though a few new features have been revealed here and there, Apple probably has a few big surprises up its sleeves as well that it’s keeping out of these developer releases.