Look Out RIM, US Govt Testing iPad & iPhone For Security Standards

Given Apple’s recent Q2 numbers  indicating a 113% growth in iPhone sales, it’s no real surprise that people love their iOS devices. Many businesses and organizations have been slowly loosening their grip on forcing employees to use ‘sanctioned’ devices (read: BlackBerrys) in order for provisioning and providing support on their corporate network. Employees are now being allowed to put their consumer devices to business use, provided they meet certain requirements. The US government is no different.

The US Department of Commerce recently signed off on a $44,000  purchase of ‘Apple Equipment’, which consists of 55 iPad 2 tablets and 5 16GB iPhone 4s. The acquisition request was put through by the National Institute of Standards and Technology  (NIST) and was approved just a few days ago. One of the most relevant things to keep in mind, is that NIST provides mandates and standard procedures for FISMA (Federal Information Security Management Act of 2002). Among other things, FISMA governs the development, documentation and implementation of information security and information systems within government agencies. Federal Information Processing Standards (FIPS) are used to define standards developed by the US federal government for implementation in computer systems. This is where FIPS-140-1 and FIPS-140-2 come into play, which define a standard for cryptography modules.

As seen above, NIST has recently updated their Cryptographic Module Validation Program Process List  (PDF) to include both the iPad and iPhone FIPS cryptographic module tests. Both are in IUT (Implementation Under Testing) phase as of August 1st, 2011. This comes just after RIM announced the PlayBook to be the first FIPS-140-2 compliant tablet  for deployment within federal agencies.

Could this be an indicator that the US government is aggressively looking to bring iOS devices to their federal workforce instead of simply renewing contracts with Research in Motion for legacy BlackBerry devices? RIM has had the government supply market locked up for decades, it’s a very strict niche, but if anybody can force their way through, it’s Apple.

Android Captures Almost 50% of the Worldwide Smartphone Market

The global smartphone market has been exploding in terms of sales. In Q2 2011, the market grew 73% year on year, with shipments of almost 107.7 million units worldwide. However, not all smartphone platforms are seeing equal growth. Nokia’s Symbian and RIM’s Blackberry have been on the decline since months now, while Android and iOS are gaining market share every quarter.


According to research firm Canalys, Android is the number one platform in over 35 of the 56 countries that it tracks. It now has a global market share of nearly 50%. About 52 million Android devices were shipped in Q2 2011, up 379% over Q2 2010.

It has an 85% share in South Korea, the home of Samsung – the largest Android device manufacturer, and a 71% share in Taiwan, where iPhones come to life. In the U.S. market, Android has a 39% share, while iOS has a 28% share.

About 20.3 million iPhones were shipped in the last quarter, making iOS the second most popular smartphone platform worldwide. It now has a 19% market share. Apple is now the largest smartphone manufacturer by sales.

Samsung comes a close second with close to 17 million unit shipments. It grew almost 421% year over year.

While Nokia still leads in emerging markets like China and India, it will soon be overtaken by Android devices.

Despite being bogged down by multiple lawsuits, Android is continuing its march ahead. The Droids are taking over the world.

iOS Developers Team Up to Fight Lodsys and Other Patent Trolls

Lodsys is probably the most hated patent troll right now. It started suing iOS app developers for implementing in-app purchasing in their apps, alleging patent infringement. The patent in question was actually handed to Lodsys by Intellectual Ventures, the greatest patent troll known to mankind.

Apple had actually licensed the patent from Intellectual Ventures, but Lodsys claimed that it didn’t cover the app developers, and that they should have to license it themselves. Apple has been trying to defend iOS developers, but there doesn’t seem to be any resolution in sight.

Recently, Lodsys also started going after independent Android developers, as well as biggies like EA, Rovio and Atari, slapping them with lawsuits.

Today, Mike Lee, an iOS developer announced the Appsterdam Legal Defense Team. He aims to rally all the affected indie developers together, and join forces to to fight off Lodsys and other patent trolls as one.

“We will let the patent trolls know: if you attack one indie, you attack all indies, and we will file every motion we can against you, we will attack your patents, and we will show you for the mafioso thugs you are.”

They will also be starting the Appsterdam Legal Defense Fund to accept contributions to fund the legal proceedings.

Most indie developers don’t have the resources to fight off trolls like Lodsys on their own, but if they all come together, they have a good chance of getting the frivolous lawsuits against them dismissed.

“Legal action will be the start of our three-pronged attack. Next we’ll take the fight to Washington, raising a wall of legislation against future attacks. Imagine a law that allows small software companies to opt out of the patent system.

We will also mobilize the many talented designers and evangelists in our community to launch a massive media marketing campaign to let the public know that small businesses, jobs, and the economy are being threatened by parasites.”

Via: ArsTechnica

Android Leads the Pack in the US with a 39% Market Share; iOS Comes Second with 28%

Android has been leading the U.S. smartphone market in terms of market share since a few months now. We already reported that Comscore’s numbers suggest that Android has a massive lead over its closest competitor – iOS.

Today, Nielsen released some updated statistics which confirm what we all know. Android is way ahead of the other platforms with a 39% market share, while Apple’s iOS comes second with a 28% share. Apple’s share, which had plateaued, has been growing again, since it launched the iPhone 4 on Verizon.

US Smartphone Market Share - Android, iOS, Blackberry

Both the platforms are growing at the expense of RIM’s Blackberry, which is now down to 20%. Windows Mobile and Windows Phone 7 together have a 9% share, which is expected to grow further, especially with Android’s patent troubles in the U.S. HP’s webOS and Nokia’s Symbian have a 2% share each.

However, when it comes to hardware, Apple leads all the way, with just 2 devices. It (with the iPhone 3GS and iPhone 4) has a 28% share. HTC comes second with a 14% share for its Android devices and a 6% share for its Windows devices. Motorola comes second with a 11% share for its Android devices, while Samsung comes in third with an 8% share for its Android devices and a 2% share for its Windows smartphones.

Samsung is expected to launch its bestseller – the Samsung Galaxy S2 – in the U.S. market soon. Considering the success it has seen worldwide, that should boost its percentage share significantly.

For now, at least until Apple launches the iPhone 5, I’m tempted to say this: Apple can suck it. Android FTW!

Qualcomm Releases Augmented Reality SDK for iOS

TechCrunch reports that Qualcomm’s has recently released Augmented Reality Software Development Kit (SDK) for iOS. When the SDK first launched, it was only available for Android though Qualcomm had promised a version for iOS in the  near future. The SDK makes it much easier for developers to integrate virtual content with real content like images captured by cameras. Currently, iOS’s SDK supports the iPhone 4, iPad 2, and the fourth generation iPod touch. This move is certainly surprising because Qualcomm had previously only expressed interest in an iOS port since their main focus was building for devices running their Snapdragon chips.

iPhone Augmented Reality

Augmentation reality apps like Layar  and Word Lens already exist for iOS and Android so they are nothing new for the platforms, however there was no easy for developers to integrate the technology cross-platform. Qualcomm’s SDK makes it easier for developers to integrate augmented reality data across platforms which could increase developer interest in augmented reality apps. It will be interesting to see what developers come up with these tools.  In my opinion, if developers start adopting this SDK quickly, we will start seeing a rapid increase in the number of users for augmented reality apps.

Apple Releases iOS 4.3.5

iOS 4.3.5

Unlike Google, Apple protects its customers from malware and other viruses which may affect iOS. Also, Apple dislikes security flaws popping up in iOS, and they do whatever it takes to offer quick fixes. Just 10 days after the release of iOS 4.3.4 (fixed a PDF exploit), they have released a new version of iOS: iOS 4.3.5.

This update is a minor update and fixes another security exploit. iOS 4.3.5 offers a a fix for a  security flaw which might allow attacker with a privileged network position may capture or modify data in sessions protected by SSL/TLS. To keep things simple, it means that a hacker on the same network could store or change traffic that would instead be encrypted.  iOS 4.3.4 did affect the JailbreakMe method, but this has no affect on jailbreakers. RedmondPie reports that the jailbreak method that worked with 4.3.4 will work here also.

Direct download links:

After updating my iOS devices (iPhone 4/iPad 2), I have noticed that my devices are a lot snappier and it seems that with every update Apple offers battery life is improved. Anyone notice anything new? Let us know in the comments.



Voice-Controlled Virtual “Assistant” Coming to iOS

Apple Nuance

A new discovery by 9to5Mac, suggests that Apple will offer a feature-rich  voice recognition service in a future version of iOS called “Assistant”. Since the acquisition of Siri and partnership with Nuance, it has been rumored that Apple was planning to offer voice-related features in iOS. However, at WWDC 2011 Apple didn’t mention any such features during the iOS 5 demo.

Assistant in iOS

The screenshot above reveals a new feature called “Assistant” in iOS 5. “Assistant” is supposed to take voice data and user specific information to provide an amazing service to the user. The voice data is supposed to be crowd-sourced and users will have the option to securely send their data to Apple.  Currently, the feature is being developed and tested by Apple and may not be finished by the time the next-iPhone ships.

We can imagine a user asking their iPhone Assistantto setup a movie with one of their friends. The user might say setup movie with Markand based on Mark’s contact info and the user’s location data, will be able to offer tickets to a local theater and send Mark the information.

In addition to voice data being used to bring results, “Assistant” is supposed to use information such as the device’s location, contact information, and music data. Also, 9to5Mac reports that there is a mention of “Assistant” hidden in the iOS SDK.

“ASSISTANT_ENABLE_WARNING” = “Assistant uses your voice input and other information like your contact names, song names, and location to understand your requests. This data will be sent to Apple to process your request and to improve Apple products and services.”

All signs are pointing towards what Siri might have been before its acquisition. Siri’s iOS app hasn’t been removed from the App Store  and is still available for download. Rumors have suggested that Apple is working closely with Nuance to offer a similar service to iOS users.

[image credit 9to5Mac]

Xcode 4.1 is Free for Lion Users

If you are a developer on the Mac, then you are aware of what Xcode is. If you aren’t a Mac/iOS/Safari Dev, then you may not have even heard of Xcode. That’s to be expected, as it used to be only  available  to those with developer  licenses.

However, when the Mac App Store launched, Apple released Xcode for a mere 5 dollars. I, like many others, picked it up for personal reasons. I wanted it to enable the beta versions of the multi-touch gestures for my iPad.

Now, Apple has decided to give Xcode away for free, given that you have purchased a copy of OS X Lion. This is huge news, because it will save casual developers a hundred bucks a year. If you need an application to write the  occasional  piece  of code, or even just a simple script now and then, you should check out Xcode.

Xcode is constantly rated as one of the best sets of tools for development on the Mac. It sports some of the best formatting and color coding I have ever come across. While I don’t write code for a living, I have done some basic web development, and Xcode makes my life easier when I do.

If you are interested in Xcode, and you have already upgraded to Lion, then I suggest you pick it up. While the price may stick, it wouldn’t surprise me if Apple changed the price with an update in the future. Jump on this deal while its  available.

Who can compete with the iPad?

The iPad is the king of tablets

Apple’s iPad has dominated tablet sales so far. Android tablets have started making some dents, but none of them are really gaining steam as a product (vs. Android tablets gaining some share as a collection). Harry McCracken at Technologizer asked the simple question every tablet maker should be asking at the time of creating their products: Why should someone buy this instead of an iPad?.

Not just the hardware

The iPad and iPad2 are exceptional products by themselves. Great design (although, I could do with a non-glossy/non-reflective screen), light enough to be really portable, GREAT battery life, and to me, a good size for a screen which would be used for media consumption like movies and TV shows via Netflix, hulu and the like.

The key to their success though, besides the hardware itself and the beauty of the operating system, is the ecosystem. The apps, music, movies, podcasts, iTunes U, and the sometimes overlooked accessory industry. Apple has made slow and steady progress in putting these pieces together and has a seemingly invincible position, but in the world of technology today, it could be very short-lived.

Of course, the starting price of $500, thought by many at the time of the iPad launch to be too high, seems like another killer feature of the iPad.

Ecosystem providers, real competition

Who can really compete with the iPad? Not just the tablet, but the entire package of the tablet, the ecosystem, and the price? Remember, it may be ok to just meet the iPad, but in order to create a serious dent, the competition has to have a pretty big advantage on almost all of the aspects. So, let’s see who is competing:

  • Android at the low end: Cheap Android tablets are everywhere but they may not have Google’s blessing and as a result be cut off from the first-class Android experience, including the Android Market. So they have the price advantage but nothing else.
  • Android at the top end: Motorola XOOM and Galaxy Tab started off as 3G devices sold by the carriers. They required a data contract or ended up costing more without data contract, than an iPad. They suffered from the data contract/price issue to start with, but more importantly, there are hardly any apps for Android in the tablet form factor. An ecosystem though, is not just about the apps, it should also provide a good collection of music, movies and TV shows, which Android seems to lack today.
  • HP TouchPad with webOS: HP recently launched the TouchPad and the sales as well as reviews are not encouraging. HP has a problem similar to Android tablets in terms of getting quality apps available for the customers. It does not have to be hundreds of thousands of apps like the iPad apps, but when you start from zero, it is really an uphill climb. HP does not have a marketplace for music, videos and TV either, but it is big enough to cut some deals and get something going. The point right now though, is that there is nothing on offer, making it difficult to justify the purchase for consumer use.
  • RIM Playbook and Windows 7 slates: I won’t go into too much detail because it is clear that RIM released this thing too soon. It is an unfinished product and has been a flop so far. It is hard to imagine a product from the maker of Blackberry devices that does not have native email and calendar. Native email and calendar are supposed to be coming this summer, but until then it is an incomplete product.   I am similarly ignoring Windows 7 tablets like the the Asus slate, because Windows 7 Touch seems like touch was slapped on Windows 7 rather than it being built for touch-first use. While it works much like a PC, thereby providing a healthy ecosystem to rely on, it is not really an iPad competitor because it is not as light, and is way more expensive.

Windows 8, Amazon tablet Two legitimate competitors

We know very little about Windows 8 and almost nothing about the Amazon tablet. In fact, we don’t even know if any such product is going to come from Amazon, but here is why I think either of these, or both, are going to be viable competitors to iPad (and also lay out conditions for their success).

Windows 8 (especially ARM version): ARM is known for its power efficiency, and we can assume that it will enable small form factor Windows 8 devices with a long battery life. Combine this with the public announcement by Steven Sinofsky that Windows 8 system requirements are going to be same or lesser than Windows 7, and we have a good chance of seeing Windows 8 tablets/slates in the iPad form factor with similar battery life. Windows has a great ecosystem which it supports on the XBOX and Windows Phone, in the form of the Zune Marketplace. It provides a huge collection of music, movies and TV shows. Windows of course, has the most extensive applications catalog (although the current Windows applications will not automatically work on ARM, but will do on Intel architecture as-is). Windows Phone has rapidly grown its app catalog, starting from zero in October/November of 2010 to about 25,000 this June. Since we don’t know what Windows 8 application development will be like outside of HTML/Javascript, let’s just assume that the app ecosystem will be rich enough to start with. This assumption is generally for Windows 8 with full support for legacyWindows applications. We cannot discuss ARM applications until we know more, supposedly at the //build/ conference in September this year.

One concern I have is that Microsoft seems to be fixated on the fact that tabletsare full PC’s, just in a different form factor. Maybe they consider slatesto be the lightweight PC with a similar form factor. I hope that one way or the other, that they understand that there is a product category which is not necessarily a full PC, but serves the purpose of casual computing much like the iPad does today.

Amazon tablet: Of all Android tablet makers, Amazon surprisingly is poised to be the best equipped in terms of an ecosystem it supports music, movies, TV shows, instant streaming, subscription, cloud storage, cloud music player, digital goods, and very recently, even its own curated Android market for apps! It has already shown manufacturing prowess with the highly successful Kindle, although I understand components for a tablet are different from those used in making the Kindle. Amazon also has a great retail shelf spaceto sell their tablet, and that is their home page, visited by millions of people every day.

If they can pull off a 9- or a 10-inch tablet built on Android with their own marketplace for apps, movies, music and TV shows, they would immediately be a competitor.

It is strange that I feel most optimistic about something that we may not see for one more year, and something that does not even exist as a product today. Such is the state of iPad competition (or lack thereof) today, that we are left to place our bets on almost-unicorns and unicorns.

I sure hope there is some real competition for the iPad though, because that can only be good for us, the consumers. Right?

Apple Introduces Volume App Purchasing for Business

Apple Volume Program for Business

Apple has introduced a new “Volume Purchasing Program”  for the App Store. The App Store  Volume Purchase Program allows businesses and educational institutions in the U.S. to purchase apps in volume and distribute them within their organizations.

Streamline your purchasing process and put more power and productivity in the hands of your workforce. Every paid app in the App Store is available for businesses to buy in volume through the program website. Simply search for the apps you need, enter the quantity you want to buy, and complete the transaction with your corporate credit card. Apps are available for purchase at the same price listed in the App Store.

In the past, Apple has offered volume sales but only for educational institutions. For businesses and educational institutions to be eligible to use this program, they must apply.  In addition, Apple is allows businesses to sell and distribute custom business-to-business (B2B) apps for business customers. B2B apps can be developed for specific needs and distributed through the same App Store.

You can read more about Apple’s program here.

Whether you’re providing apps to two employees or ten thousand, the Volume Purchase Program makes it simple to find, buy, and distribute the apps your business needs.

The Volume Purchase Program also provides a way to purchase custom B2B apps built by third-party developers to meet the unique needs of your business.

The Volume Purchase Program for Business is coming soon to businesses in the United States.