Spotify is releasing its API for iOS Wednesday.

The red hot music streaming service, which recently made its U.S. debut, will open its catalogue of more than 15 million tracks to third-party iPhone and iPad app developers.

The application package, Libspotify for iOS, is available to Spotify Premium users. It rounds out Spotify’s API suite, also available for Windows, Mac OS and Linux.

“We hope this will enable a new category of iPhone, iPad and iPod Touch applications with Spotify inside and allow for more immersive music experiences within iOS apps,” Director of Platform Sten Garmark says.

The API release is important considering the bevy of music subscription services competing for end user attention. Now, Spotify has the opportunity to piggyback on the popularity of Apple’s iOS platform to reach an even greater audience.

Image courtesy of Flickr, Andreas Blixt

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The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) is looking to transform the way they develop applications that serve wide and diverse audiences. They are currently running Apps for the Environment, an app development challenge — with a deadline of September 16 — that is meant to encourage the public to come up with new ways of leveraging EPA data.

“The premise for a long, long time has been that the government knows what is best for folks,” says Robin Gonzalez, acting director of the Office of Information Analysis and Access within the Office of Environmental Information. “We collect data from the people we regularly work with — industry — and others and try to put it into digestible formats which usually come out as sets of reports or raw data sets. The EPA has a number of large databases, such as Envirofacts, and is looking forward to “seeing what kind of apps students and developers come up with using our data.”


The Challenge


Gonzalez says this challenge presents a different way for a government agency to operate. It lets the market dictate how years of valuable EPA data can be put to good use.

The Apps for the Environment challenge welcomes individuals, independent programmers and corporate programmers to participate in developing apps for consumers, business-to-business and even government-to-business scenarios (or vice versa). The three categories for entries are Professional, Student and People’s Choice, with one winner to be chosen in each category.

The apps submitted must address one of the Seven Priorities from EPA Administrator Lisa Jackson, such as taking action on climate change or building strong state and tribal partnerships. The apps should also be useful to individuals or the community at large. Developers can get ideas from webinars available on the site, which consist of audio interviews, slideshows and transcripts.

Even non-programmers can contribute to the challenge by submitting ideas for potential apps. The EPA’s challenge currently has 90 app ideas on their site, including:

  • An app that would identify nearby recycling centers for disposing household hazardous waste
  • An app that combines air toxics data from the EPA’s National Air Toxic Assessment (NATA) database with environmental public health data from the Centers for Disease Control and National Environmental Public Health Tracking Program to identify areas with high emissions that also have high incidences of disease
  • An app that identifies all available beach advisories and/or closings near a user’s current location
  • An app that allows users to compare the environmental impact of two products, such as grocery and household products

Developers are encouraged to either submit apps based on their own ideas or peruse dozens of app ideas from others. There is even a Hack-a-thon taking place on Labor Day weekend and hosted by American University that aims to bring together developers and teams from universities throughout the area, professional coders, as well as EPA data specialists. The goal will be to develop apps for the competition.


App Contests Are Going Mainstream


While app challenges aren’t new (take NYC Big Apps, the Civic Apps Challenge in Portland, Oregon and even a DC apps challenge called Apps for Democracy), what makes the EPA Apps for the Environment challenge different is that it is national in scope. The EPA challenge also encourages the use of not just EPA data sets but data from other agencies as well.

The EPA announced Apps for the Environment in June 2011 on the heels of another national app competition supported by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) called myHealthyPeople Challenge — a part of the Health 2.0 Developers Challenge for rapid app development. The goal of the HHS apps challenge was to develop a custom Healthy People 2020 app for professionals, advocates, funders and decision makers who are using the Healthy People initiative to improve the well-being of people across the country. Challenge winners were invited to meet with HHS leadership to demo their apps and to strategize additional development opportunities. The Healthy Communities Institute won the first place prize of $2,500 for its online dashboard that checks the status of all the HealthyPeople 2020 goals in Sonoma County to assess and improve local community health.


The Reward


On November 8, the EPA will present awards to the Apps for the Environment challenge winners in a high-profile event in Northern Virginia. At the same event, the Department of Energy (DOE) will announce details about their upcoming apps challenge. As federal agencies pass the apps challenge baton, they can learn from their predecessors and their own experiences in accelerating the development cycle through crowdsourcing. Additional federal agency apps challenges can be found on Challenge.gov.

Gonzalez acknowledges that apps challenges are a form of crowdsourcing for app development, and while their current app challenge doesn’t include a monetary award, he says the EPA is exploring several models of payment for future app development initiatives.

“We’re looking to streamline the app development process, looking at this as a model that will inform that process going forward,” says Gonzalez. “We don’t expect to get everything for free, obviously, but at the same time we want to do this in a more innovative and more competitive way than exists today.”

Gonzalez says he has a team in place examining how their initial apps challenge effort can lead to future challenges and future app development work at the EPA. The goal is to look for different ways than the traditional model of determining the app they want produced, writing up specs, putting out an RFP, letting vendors bid on it and then picking a winner who then builds the app. By getting the public involved, new opportunities may arise that wouldn’t have come out of the usual RFP process.

Once the winning apps are chosen, the EPA will not own any of the apps. As long as the information retrieved from the EPA’s data sets is not misused in any way, the completed apps are property of the respective developers, who can then market and sell the apps themselves. The challenge winners will be invited to present their apps at the November awards ceremony to an audience that will include representatives from the EPA and other federal agencies, the media and even venture capitalists.

And more apps challenges are on the horizon for the EPA.

“What we currently develop is what we think is best for the public. Our thinking is changing,” says Gonzalez. “We believe that there’s a whole lot of innovative ways to approach development of our applications.”

Apps challenges are the EPA’s move in a more open and inclusive direction.


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Jeroen Wijering is the creator of the incredibly successful JW Player, which has generated millions of downloads since its release in 2005. In 2007 he co-founded LongTail Video, focusing on a full-fledged online video platform that includes encoding, delivery, syndication and advertising.

With the Android and iOS platforms growing like weeds, online publishers are scrambling to “mobilize” their video players. Because Apple’s iOS doesn’t run Flash, most of these publishers turn to the HTML5 <video> tag for delivering their clips to mobile devices.

While universalizing mobile video is a critical first step (better to have your videos play than not), it only marks the beginning of the process. The mobile user experience (UX) model is vastly different from that of the desktop browser, which means additional work is needed in areas such as interface, streaming and advertising. These UX differences hold several implications for video players.


Touch vs. Mouse


The most obvious difference is user input. A mouse controls desktop video players, whereas both iOS and Android rely on capacitive touchscreens. Since a fingertip is both bigger and more difficult to position than a mouse cursor, buttons on mobile video players must be larger than their desktop equivalents.

When using a mouse, there is the so-called “mouse-over” state — when the mouse is positioned over a button, but not clicked. Some video players rely on this tool to pop up a volume slider or selection menu. However, the tool is not available on touch devices, so mobile players cannot rely on it.

On the other hand, touch devices do allow users to control applications by sliding one or more fingers across the screen. This type of interaction (found in features like gestures and multi-touch) is relatively new and still unexplored, but could become widely used over time. Some basic gestures, like sliding over a webpage or scrolling through a playlist, are already widely recognized today.


Full-Screen vs. Windowed


Another key differentiator is screen size. Mobile screens are three or four inches in diameter, a big leap from 14-inch laptops or 20-inch desktop monitors. Therefore, on both Android and iPhone, videos are usually played back in full-screen, instead of a smaller window within an HTML page. This means that visual interaction with other parts of the page — including companion ads that pop up — is lost on mobile devices. Publishers should not rely on this advertising model.

In full-screen mode, both Android and iOS expose only system-provided video controls like pause and seeking. Important online video components such as additional share buttons and overlay ads are simply not possible. Therefore, any custom controls or graphics are best displayed before the video is started and/or after it has ended.


On-the-Go vs. At-the-Desk


Mobile devices are frequently used on-the-go, meaning their Internet connection may be poor and unreliable. Connection speed can change dramatically, even within a single video playback session, for example, when a user switches from 3G to Wi-Fi. Therefore, iOS devices support a specific type of video streaming that continuously adapts video quality to the available bandwidth connection: HTTP live streaming. It is highly recommended to use this functionality for mobile video playback.

Unfortunately, Android only supports this type of streaming as of version 3.0. To ensure optimal video quality, players can offer an up-front video quality selection. As Android manufacturers migrate from the 2.x to the 3.x platform, HTTP live streaming can — and should — replace this manual quality selector.

An additional “watch later” tool is convenient for mobile players. Users who are casually browsing on a mobile device can tag a video to save for later viewing. The publisher will then remind the user about the video at a later point. Publishers can implement “watch later” functionality using cookies, logins or one of the emerging services dedicated to this functionality.


In sum, the vast differences between desktops/laptops and mobile devices require a major redesign of existing video players. But things don’t stop at the player. The surrounding website needs optimization as well, with less content, fewer sidebars, less clutter and more focus on the video itself.

Mobilizing your video is not about swapping Flash for HTML5. Instead it’s about adapting your content to the device and facilitating a unique and interactive type of user experience. Mobile video consumption is exploding, but it’s also still evolving, as are the platforms that serve the content to consumers. By going above and beyond the bare minimum now, you’ll be well positioned as mobile continues to grow.

Images courtesy of iStockphoto, PashaIgnatov, and Flickr, Luca Zappa.

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Appcelerator and IDC released their Q3 Mobile Developer Report on Wednesday, which looks at how mobile developers currently view the smartphone and tablet landscape. The report revealed that developers are most excited about the mobile potential of Google+ and Apple’s iCloud.

Despite it being just a month old, Google+ is showing plenty of potential, according to devs. The majority surveyed say Google+ has what it takes to compete head-on with Facebook. Meanwhile, iCloud’s mainstream potential has iOS developers enthused about the possibilities of integrating it into their apps.

Looking at the report, the one area that hasn’t changed since last spring is developer interest in the main mobile ecosystems: iOS and Android continue to be the platforms that developers are “very interested” in developing for.

There is a clear disparity between the number of developers that indicate interest in Android tablets and the relatively small number of Honeycomb-optimized apps. Scott Schwarzhoff, Appcelerator’s VP of marketing, says Android tablets are in a holding pattern. Interest is still high — based on the belief that the tablet market will mimic what we’ve seen in the mobile phone market. But tablet pricing, availability and market share are keeping many developers from taking that first step.

For the first time, Appcelerator and IDC added HTML5 to its list of platforms. Some 66% of respondents indicated that they were very interested in that format.

As we’ve seen with Twitter‘s new HTML5 iPad website, the trend of creating both native apps and HTML5 web apps — rather than choosing one or the other — remains strong.


Where’s the API?


To us, the most interesting part of the survey are the questions on social networking and cloud computing APIs.

When asked what announcement would have the biggest impact on mobile growth and adoption, near-field communication (NFC), Android patent issues and rumors of an Amazon Android tablet were all outshone by Google+ and iCloud.

Why is this compelling? Because Google+ doesn’t even have a public facing API. At the time of the survey (two weeks ago), the state of the iCloud API was still relatively limited. Ultimately, we’re not convinced that these statistics will mean a lot in terms of real-world usage, until the APIs are actually released and broadly understood.

On the social front, two-thirds of developers believe that Google+ has the potential to challenge or catch up with Facebook. Again, these numbers are compelling, but they don’t mean a whole lot until Google can back up the hype with a real, tangible API.


Easy Does It


On the cloud computing front — Amazon, the leader in the last few surveys — was essentially tied with Apple and its iCloud platform. Schwarzhoff says iCloud, unlike Amazon’s AWS, is thought to be easier for developers to implement.

Dropbox and Box.net, cloud collaboration and storage companies that have mobile APIs and are already in use by dozens of mobile apps, were not included in the survey. We think iCloud will be used by developers the same way that Box.net and Dropbox are used now, for easy access to storage and syncing tools.

Does the latest mobile survey mirror any of your thoughts and experiences with mobile app development? Let us know in the comments.

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In the same way that bar codes don’t have to be boring, quick response codes can also be creative. Thanks to a 30% tolerance in readability, you can have some real fun with clever designs. Besides looking good, this can also make them more successful.

“Designer QR codes are not only a way to make your 2D barcode stand out, but they also add a more human element to the otherwise cold and techie appearance,” says Patrick Donnelly, QR code designer and expert. “This could be the difference between someone scanning your code or not.”

Take a look through the image gallery for 15 brilliant designs created for a range of businesses from big names such as Disney, little names such as local restaurants and even conceptual ideas. Let us know in the comments if a clever design would make you more likely to scan a code.

1. Ayara Thai Cuisine




Designed by Paperlinks, a charming elephant drawing adds a dash of Asia to this LA restaurant’s QR code.

2. True Blood

HBO’s True Blood season 3 was the first TV series to get a designer QR code in an ad, thanks to a collaboration between Warbasse Design, .phd agency and SET Japan.

3. Magic Hat Brewing Company

This clever code from Patrick Donnelly is made up of bottle tops and links to the beer company’s mobile optimized Facebook page.

4. Help Japan Now

Chances are you’ve already seen SET’s “Help Japan” design. As well as extending the code to make an instantly recognizable red cross, the faux parts of the code contain related symbols for an arresting overall effect.

5. Louis Vuitton

Another SET creation, QR codes get playful with a dose of Takeshi Murakami-influenced design for Louis Vuitton’s mobile website

.

6. Corkbin

Wine app Corkbin gets the Paperlinks treatment with a design that co-ordinates with, and even features, its distinctive logo.

7. Disney

Cliffano Subagio spotted these awesome Disney codes in Japan where QR is a well established marketing tool.

8. Discover LA Tourism Bureau

This Paperlinks code is both cool and calm with made-you-look palm trees that add a special design touch.

9. Pac-Man

An experimental design from Patrick Donnelly, we love the witty, retro appeal.

10. Greenfield Lodge

The dots from Greenfield Lodge’s floral logo are replicated throughout the design to great effect.

11. M&Ms

Anther concept design from Patrick Donnelly, we like the idea of arranging real-life objects into a scannable code.

12. The Fillmore Silver Spring

Paperlinks added musical instruments into this concert venue’s design, a neat way to tease consumers into reading the code.

13. Burtonwood & Holmes

Artists Tom Burtonwood and Holly Holmes have fun by extruding the classic code design with a code-within-a-code concept.

14. The Wine Sisterhood

As well as integrating elements from the group’s logo, we like how Paperlinks made the design appear painted with wine.

15. TIME

These striking TIME covers from SET show just how creative you can get with QR codes.

BONUS: Farmville

Patrick Donnelly is such a QR code enthusiast, he spent months on Farmville “growing” a design!


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SMS is the ugly stepchild of mobile applications, but if you’re looking for a simple way to reach a huge swath of people, SMS is the way to go.

After all, smartphone penetration is still relatively low within the U.S. and global markets. And for some tasks, you might not need something as complicated as a native or mobile web application.

Perhaps you want to launch an autoresponder or send interactive outbound messages. Maybe you want to run an SMS-based marketing promotion or build a self-service app for customers. You could even set up a voting app à la American Idol.

SMS is a great way to reach a much larger consumer base with these kinds of simple messages. And due to the simple fact of technological evolution, building an SMS app has never been easier.

SMSified is a new and relatively easy way to build SMS apps with a REST API. The service provides an SMS gateway that works with the Big Four carriers (AT&T, Verizon, Sprint and T-Mobile) as well as Virgin Mobile and MetroPCS. Currently, SMSified apps work within the U.S. only.

The API allows for sending and receiving text messages via either short codes or ten-digit phone numbers. SMSified can also help devs with setting up short codes, a 90-day, $3,000 fee process.

The service uses a REST interface based on the GSMA OneAPI standard. It uses the HTTP POST method on the web server side to send and receive messages and notifications. You can get more info on the specifics in the documentation.

The service is currently in a beta period — during this time, all messages sent through SMSified are free. The company is also offering users a $20 credit to send and receive messages and test SMSified apps. When the beta and the credit run out, SMS messages cost $.01 each.

SMSified is made by Voxeo, a VoIP and IVR (that’s “interactive voice response”) company.


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image courtesy of iStockphoto, spxChrome

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qr cork image

Hamilton Chan is CEO and founder of Paperlinks. With the free Paperlinks iPhone app, featured previously by Apple as the #1 New & Noteworthy app, consumers can scan and view QR code content with a native app experience. Paperlinks also provides a powerful platform for generating QR codes, hosting content and tracking their performance.

The QR code: A thing of beauty or an eyesore? The magical barcodes that can be scanned by a smartphone to launch an offline-to-online experience are often criticized for their black and white checkerbox appearance. Those who doubt that QR codes will go mainstream are quick to point out that the look of QR codes will deter marketers and advertisers from using them.

Fortunately, QR codes are malleable and can be redesigned in truly extraordinary ways, while still maintaining their scanability. The truth is, QR codes no longer have to be checkerbox in appearance. We’ve entered a new phase of “designer codes” that can be integrated into marketing campaigns in an attractive way that isn’t an eyesore.

QR codes have so much potential from a design perspective, so let’s take a look at a few tricks and techniques you should keep in mind when designing a code to enhance your brand and appeal to your audience.


1. Add a Color Palette


The easiest way to add branding power to your code is to add color to it. Your QR code does not have to be standard black and white in order to be scanned. You can embed multiple colors and apply a color gradient without affecting scanability. The only rule of thumb is that the code color should generally be dark and placed against a light-colored background. Make sure the contrast is sufficient, or the code will be difficult to scan.

A “reversed out” code, where the background is dark and the boxes are light colored, is generally not recommended. Only a small handful of QR code readers can treat such codes as a film negative and properly interpret the data.


2. Soften Hard Edges with Round Corners


blue qr image

One of the QR code’s greatest aesthetic flaws is its numerous hard edges. You can dramatically lessen the severity of this look by strategically rounding some corners. It is not necessary to round all of the corners, but softening up the edges will definitely make the code appear more friendly and approachable.


3. Incorporate Dimensionality for 3D Impact


One high impact way to brand your QR code is to obstruct some of the boxes with imagery, such as a logo. By placing an image in front of the code, you imbue the code with a sense of depth. An ordinary barcode suddenly becomes a form of artwork, and you can really make a statement with the way you melt boxes together or choose to obstruct aspects of the code.

Fun ideas include adding a logo to the center of the code, but you could also add interesting elements to the corners or the sides for an even less standard look. Adding images or characters between the boxes is another playful way to dress the code with personality and style.


4. Use QR Codes With 30% Error Correction


green qr image

If you decide to add in a logo to create a 3D feel for your QR code, you need to decide which part of the coding to obstruct with your logo. The key to creating these eye-popping designer codes is to take advantage of the fact that up to 30% of a QR code’s data can be missing or obstructed, and still be scanned. QR codes can be generated with 0%, 10%, 20% or 30% error correction rates built in. Building in the 30% error correction rate adds more noise (extra boxes) within the code, but those extra boxes within the code can then be removed to make way for a logo or other interesting imagery.

If you use a QR code with 0% error correction, the code will look more streamlined, but opportunities to brand the code by adding in a logo are very limited. Removing or obstructing a single box within a 0% error QR code could render it unscannable.


Apply a Trial-and-Error Process


cork qr image

Technically, it is possible to mathematically compute which boxes in a QR code are the buffers that can be removed, but such computations are generally unnecessary. By applying a simple process of trial-and-error, anyone can begin applying their design techniques to a code and then test for scannability.

Be sure to test your code’s scannability with multiple QR readers, ideally three or four. Some readers may be able to overcome some stylistic elements of your designer code, whereas others will not. Deploying your code without testing for scannability is designer malpractice and can cause serious heartache with clients. It is true that even with reasonable precautions, designer codes may still be difficult to scan, so you must always weigh the costs of scanning difficulty against the benefits of designing a code that is eye-catching. If a designer code takes more than a few seconds to scan, it probably needs to be redesigned.


Conclusion


In the end, creating branded QR codes is as much art as it is science. The mathematical qualities of a QR code and the impact of a clever design can truly elevate a QR code to the point where the code becomes the central artwork of a piece of marketing collateral. Applying designer best practices will enhance scanning conversion rates and effectively augment an offline item with online capabilities.

It is only a matter of time before QR codes hit mainstream. Knowing how to innovate both in technology and design, and how to implement a QR code in the right way for your business, will keep your brand on the cutting edge
of marketing and technology.


Interested in more QR Code resources? Check out Mashable Explore, a new way to discover information on your favorite Mashable topics.

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Dunkin’ Donuts has finished rolling out a site redesign that helps users access the brand on a more local, store-specific level.

“The old dunkindonuts.com was really a one-size-fits-all destination, where we talked about a lot of national initiatives, but it never got down to the local market level, which was not in the best interest of our guests or our franchisees,” says Dave Tryder, Dunkin’ Donuts’s director of interactive and relationship marketing. “Our primary goal [in the redesign] was to enable guests to find out what was going on at their local Dunkin’ … and to make it more social.”

The new version, which was inspired by feedback from the company’s Facebook fanbase, is designed to help customers find out what is going on at their local Dunkin’ Donuts stop on both their desktops and on their mobile devices.

Consumers can enter their zip codes or use the GPS functionality on their smartphones to access information about store openings, hours, promotions (we have yet to see this integrated), Wi-Fi availability and other relevant information in their area. They can also use the new Trip Planner tool to identify a path of Dunkin’ Donuts locations further afield, lest they be forced to turn to a local shop for coffee or doughnuts in their travels.

The retail chain has also launched its first blog, “Behind the Beans,” and has started streaming content from its feeds on Facebook, Twitter and YouTube right on the homepage, underscoring the increasing importance of self-distributed media to the company. Dunkin’ Donuts is investing more resources in producing its own content, having released a three-part series on its new “eating smart” menu in the first quarter with the company’s executive chef, as well as some iced coffee promotions around the holidays.

“Web video allows us to do some things we may not do on TV, to tell the brand story in a different way, to do something more fun,” Tryder says. “It’s a very cost-effective way to get the message across from a production/cost standpoint. The audience size is there now.”

The company will continue to build out its content offerings on social networks and on its blog in the coming months.

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Earlier today, we learned that Google would be limiting access to the source code for Android 3.0, a.k.a. Honeycomb, its tablet-specific OS.

For a famously open-source platform, this decision was startling to many in the field; however, the situation isn’t as dire as it seems at the outset. For one thing, any tablet manufacturer or dev can get their hands on the code; all they have to do is ask.

[UPDATE: The image for this post has changed; please see the author’s comments.]

As a Google rep told us in an email, the Honeycomb OS was designed for the larger form factor that goes along with tablet devices; it definitely wasn’t intended for use on phones. And Honeycomb includes new features and improvements to existing features such as multi-tasking, browsing, notifications and customization.

The rep stated, “While we’re excited to offer these new features to Android tablets, we have more work to do before we can deliver them to other device types including phones. Until then, we’ve decided not to release Honeycomb to open source.”

“We’re committed to providing Android as an open platform across many device types and will publish the source as soon as it’s ready.”

In other words, this doesn’t signal a fundamental shift in everything that Android stands for; after all, the open-source mantra has been such a fundamental part of the platform’s PR that killing off that aspect of the technology would amount to Google shooting itself in the foot.


Hardly the End of Open-Source Android


Google’s isn’t locking down the source code for Froyo (Android 2.2) or Gingerbread (Android 2.3) any time soon, and it doesn’t have and intentions of keeping future releases closed, either.

And as we know, the tablet and phone forks of Android will be merged in a future release (possibly Android 4.0), which will also be open-sourced.

The “I” release, which may or may not be code-named “Ice Cream,” will combine the Gingerbread and Honeycomb capabilities, and it’s rumored to be coming this summer. We may get to learn more about Ice Cream at Google I/O this May.

Also, for developers, the Honeycomb SDK is still freely available for developing Android tablet apps. And the source code for Honeycomb is still available; it just isn’t publicly posted on the web for anyone to download.

Anyone in the Open Handset Alliance can get the source code for Android 3.0. And any person working with Android tablets can contact Google directly, sign a licensing agreement (no fees required), and get the source code that way, as well.


The Real Reason for the Decision


In short, Google is simply trying to prevent sloppy implementation of a slick OS. The company doesn’t want to see more gaffes like tablets running Froyo or earlier mobile OSes — and Google sees phones running Honeycomb as an equally inept implementation.

As we asked ourselves around the Mashable office, “Who in the world would want to put a tablet OS on a phone?”

Hackers, that’s who. And when we say “hackers,” we don’t mean the script kiddies trying to steal your bank info; rather, we refer to the creative technologists and tinkerers whose guiding principle is a question: “What’s this button do?”

In fact, such hardware hackers have already played with putting Honeycomb on the ancient T-Mobile G1 and the equally early Nexus One.

While neither of these hacks would likely come to a mass market, Google might be making a legitimate argument about misunderstanding and misuse of the Honeycomb OS.


Timelines & Influences


Two questions then remain: When will the tablet OS be open-sourced, and did current Honeycomb-using manufacturers who happen to be particularly close to Google (here’s lookin’ at you, Motorola) have anything to do with the decision?

The Google rep we spoke to was unable to comment on specific timelines or Google’s decision-making process, but we did reach out to Android dev and Android blogger Fred Grott for his take on the matter.

We noted earlier that Ice Cream was expected to arrive between May and later in the summer of 2011. Grott noted, “I would hazard a guess that the Android phone-tablet port is due out this summer, and the source would be open to public this fall.”

He also said that at Mobile World Congress, the more cutting-edge devices with NFC tech were not running the most recent versions of Android for mobile devices, which hints that manufacturers may be lagging in adoption of the newest releases.

“What I gather from what Google has stated,” Grott continued, “is that they want the Honeycomb port to the phone branch correct and right the first time to head off any manufacturer customizations of the UI and finally nip that part of fragmentation in the bud.”

Grott also said that dealing with those OS customizations is a pain point for manufacturers; they have to rewrite native apps, and they don’t get any kickbacks from carriers for doing so.

Also, for manufacturers, carriers, Google and the community of Android tablet consumers, having a partially closed door for OS customizations helps breed a culture of trust. It’s not the closely guarded world of iOS, but it’s also not an unpredictable, anything-goes free-for-all. And in the new, new arena
of Android tablets, that might be a good and solidifying factor.

This might chafe FOSS advocates mightily, but it’s likely in Google’s best interest for the time being. Let us know what you think about Google’s decision and reasoning.

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Google has just pulled 21 popular free apps from the Android Market. According to the company, the apps are malware aimed at getting root access to the user’s device, gathering a wide range of available data, and downloading more code to it without the user’s knowledge.

Although Google has swiftly removed the apps after being notified (by the ever-vigilant Android Police bloggers), the apps in question have already been downloaded by at least 50,000 Android users.

The apps are particularly insidious because they look just like knockoff versions of already popular apps. For example, there’s an app called simply “Chess.” The user would download what he’d assume to be a chess game, only to be presented with a very different sort of app.

These apps are all pirated versions of popular games and utilities — an expeditious solution for busy hackers. Once downloaded, the apps root the user’s device using a method like rageagainstthecage, then use an Android executable file (APK) to nab user and device data, such as your mobile provider and user ID. Finally, the app acts as a wide-open backdoor for your device to quietly download more malicious code.

Below is a complete list of the bad apps, all of which were made by an entity called Myournet. If you’ve downloaded one of these apps, it might be best to take your device to your carrier and exchange it for a new one, since you can’t be sure that your device and user information is truly secure. Considering how much we do on our phones — shopping and mobile banking included — it’s better to take precautions.

  • Falling Down
  • Super Guitar Solo
  • Super History Eraser
  • Photo Editor
  • Super Ringtone Maker
  • Super Sex Positions
  • Hot Sexy Videos
  • Chess
  • 下坠滚球_Falldown
  • Hilton Sex Sound
  • Screaming Sexy Japanese Girls
  • Falling Ball Dodge
  • Scientific Calculator
  • Dice Roller
  • 躲避弹球
  • Advanced Currency Converter
  • APP Uninstaller
  • 几何战机_PewPew
  • Funny Paint
  • Spider Man
  • 蜘蛛侠

Remember, the Android Market is open, which can be great and unfortunate in different circumstances. Always read user reviews before you download; and if you have any doubts, play it safe.

More About: android, malware, Mobile 2.0, security

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