Spotify US: First Impressions

Music streaming service Spotify has finally launched in the United States after much anticipation and waiting. Spotify is a music streaming service that lets you search for songs and play them on the air. Its much like Grooveshark, except this one has got some nifty features. Spotify has three packages. Spotify Open is a free package offering 10 hours of streaming every month and a limit of playing the same track up to 5 times. Unlimited package offers unlimited listening without ads and travel option (which means you can stream from other countries besides the UK and the US) which comes at a price of $4.99/mo. The Premium package comes with Spotify on your cell phone which lets you stream to mobile devices such as the iPhone and Android.  It also boasts enhanced sound quality and has offline listening. This one has a steep price tag of $9.99/mo. Let’s see how it performs with competition like Pandora, Rdio, Grooveshark, Slacker Radio and a bunch of others in the space.

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Google wallet - where the future of NFC lies

NFC or Near Field Communication, has been catching a lot of heat. There are ventures by groups like BlackBerry and Bank of America or Google and MasterCard that are working on NFC solutions. So what is NFC? Its a way of electronically transmitting data (payment information in this case) to a receiver or the POS (Point of Sale) system used in stores.

It is true that our smart phones are taking care of our lives by providing networking, connectivity and convenience at our palms. It is the device of the future that holds our life, right from personal data to important work documents. The next step is replacing our wallets. Google seems to be taking a major step with its new offering of Google wallet.

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Yahoo! kills its Buzz

Yahoo! has announced that it is killing yet another product. This time its Yahoo’s Buzz. Yahoo launched Buzz a few years ago when Digg was a popular means of social news discovery and sharing. As social sharing has bottled up into social networking sites like Facebook and Twitter, people are not actively using sites like Digg. I feel this is just a soical media transition. Yahoo has decided to pull the plug on April 21st 2011. Here is their announcement:

Yahoo! Buzz will be discontinued as of April 21, 2011. As of this date, you will be unable to access the Yahoo! Buzz site. This was a hard decision. However this will help us focus on our core strengths and new innovations.

We appreciate your patronage.

The Yahoo! Buzz Team

Social media is an evolving field and we will see many attractive services be born, live a long life and die… As of now, RIP Yahoo! Buzz.

Amazon appstore dominates the Android

Amazon is a giant when it comes to online shopping. It has dominated the eCommerce market since a long time. Recently, amazon has expanded into many other areas including eBooks with the Amazon Kindle. Kindle’s success has given a great place to Amazon in the eBooks market as well. Furthermore, amazon has entered many other areas like Amazon MP3 (competition to iTunes Store) and also Amazon Video on demand (competition to Hulu and other video streaming services). These are not the leading services yet but are definitely attracting some consumers.

About a month ago, Amazon announced its Appstore for Android. Thousands of developers signed up for the Developer program which is Free for the first year. A few days ago, Amazon launched its awaited Appstore for Android with the help of the popular game Angry Birds. The Rio edition of Angry Birds launched exclusively on the Amazon Appstore which attracted millions of consumers to Amazon’s new venture. Recent statistics suggests that Amazon surpassed Google in many areas with its Appstore. Looks like Amazon is living up to its “a to z” mark.

If you are an Android user and have not already checked out Amazon Appstore, it definitely worth a look. It also has a daily giveaway (inspired by FreeAppADay for iOS devices).

Link: Amazon Appstore

Turn your Dashboard into Launchpad

Apple announced Mac OS X 10.7 Lion a few months ago and said that it would be much more intuitive as features from iOS would be borrowed. There has been some debate on this topic, some say that navigation would be easier whereas others say that Apple is restricting OS X features by making it more like a mobile device. However, one of the great features on Lion is Launchpad, which lets you access your apps with the click of a button. If you are one of the people who are really waiting for this feature, hold your breadth no more. Junecloud has announced the Plus dashboard widget that lets you place shortcuts of your favorite apps on the Dashboard. Plus is a Free dashboard widget available from Junecloud, get it now to turn your Dashboard into Launchpad.

Plus from Junecloud

Google joins the eBooks race

Along with the Amazon Kindle store, Apple iBooks store and many others like Barnes and Noble, Google has joined the eBook race. Google just released its eBookstore with over 3 million titles. Just like Amazon Kindle, Google supports a wide variety of devices. eBookstore has launched with clients for iOS, Android, Nook, Sony and a web-based reader, though some functionality is restricted to web at the moment.

The eBookstore website is massive with lots of content but navigating through the content is not very intuitive. There is a lots of searching and scrolling to get around the store. There are some categories like New Arrivals and Top Sellers to get you started. I tried out the iPhone client which seems pre-mature, you can only download and read purchased books, to get new books you are redirected to Google’s website in Safari and there is no way to manage books. This needs to be done through its web-based client on the computer. So the eBookstore is a little raw at the moment be some revamp and further development of clients can get Google along with Amazon and Apple in the race.

You can visit the eBookstore here.

Hulu Plus drops to $7.99

So hulu’s plus subscription has been out for a while and has been getting a good response due to support on multiple devices like the iPad and iPhone. But hulu is not the only one, it does have competitors like Netflix which drive users away. Now that Netflix also has apps on mobile devices to stream content which makes the choice even harder. So hulu has decided to drop its monthly subscription price from $9.99 to $7.99 hoping to get some attention. The invite page has also disappeared and anyone can sign up for hulu plus alongside the 1 week free trial just like Netflix’s 2 week trial. If the competition wasn’t enough, comcast xfinity users will be getting access to content for free using the upcoming apps for the iPad and iPhone. Online streaming services are facing fierce competition at this point, where as users enjoy more choices and lower prices. Let the battle begin!

As of current hulu plus users, you will be getting a refund from hulu. You should hear from them soon…

HP's Palm Pre 2 hits UK

Palm’s webOS was getting some attention after iOS and Android, and then HP bought Palm. There was a lot of talk about what HP was upto. Was webOS a threat to them, or did they want to use it in their products and develop it further? Well, after a delayed launch today, 2 days after its original November 12th launch date, HP just released the Palm Pre 2 with their revised version of webOS. The Palm Pre 2 is on sale in the United Kingdom for £399.00 (SIM free and Unlocked), through the HP Palm UK website. Apparently major carriers in the UK do not want to sell the Pre 2 as they are more inclined towards the iPhone and Android devices, not to mention the recent Windows Phone 7s.

So, is this a dead-end for Palm, or will things turn around for them? We’ll see as time progresses. As of now, Pre 2 is on sale in the UK without a carrier. If you are in the UK and want to get yourself a Palm Pre 2, then head to the product webpage at Palm UK.

Mac OS X 10.7 Lion Unveiled

Apple had a “Back to the Mac” event with several announcements like a new MacBook Air with Instant On and flash storage, an update to its iLife suite, FaceTime for Macs, an AppStore for Macs and the successor of SnowLeopard. Apple has sold millions of iOS devices (iPhones, iPod touches and iPads) and due to exceptional sales, iOS has been actively under development. Each new version of iOS has impressive features, some better than the others. Apple claims that they have learnt a lot with iOS and wants to implement some of the features into Mac OS X. In a nutshell, AppStore is the sole reason behind sales of iOS devices and they want to make the Mac more like one of those devices with simplistic interface and an AppStore to get applications instantly in order to boost sales.

So how exactly is Lion more like iOS? Apple has integrated the home screen with Mac OS and named it Launchpad. The Launchpad will have all apps in it. And of course, folders just as on iOS devices by dragging icons on top of each other to put them in a folder. Besides the home screen and AppStore, they are also focusing on full-screen applications and iPhoto 11 uses an iPad app-like interface with full screen and Tab bar at the bottom. This was unveiled at the event, more features will be seen as the OS will be developed further.

Mac OS X 10.7 will debut in Summer 2011.

Link: Mac OS X Lion at Apple

Mozilla Seabird is the future

We all have seen science fiction movies with those cool gadgets that we crave. Movies right from Back to the Future to The Island show us what the future might look like. They have the flying cars, skyscrapers different from what we have today and the awesome gadgets. Technology is surely heading that way from what we have seen in the last decade. A couple of years ago, we were new to texting and as we got used to it, we got social networking which led to a whole new way to communicating and interacting. We can now see friends around our geographical location on our mobile phones and see what they are doing, and share pictures and videos with them. We can hold our phones to the radio and find out what song is playing. We can also scan barcodes of items and find best deals for the product. It’s just amazing how technology has evolved in the past decade.

Mozilla Labs has a new concept for a mobile phone. Its called the Mozilla Seabird. There have been dozens of smartphone concepts for mobile phones, but this one is a true revolution. The Seabird has a unique design, its flat from the front and curved on the back. There is a bluetooth dongle that pops out of the back that can be used as a ear piece. You can also hover it in the air to interact with the phone. Getting it closer to you will zoom in and moving it away from out would zoom out. Another great thing is that it has two projectors build in. One projects a full OS on the wall and the other projects a virtual keyboard and touch pad on the desk. That’s right. It turns into your computer!

Link: Mozilla Labs