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Firefox Mobile

Mozilla’s Firefox web browser is a serious competitor to Microsoft’s Internet Explorer, despite initial skepticism from techies that anyone could break the stranglehold Microsoft had developed on the browser business. Sure, it helps that Firefox is “partnered” with the mega-giant Google for some financial backing, but it takes a big shield to stop a big club.

Although only about 20 percent of internet users use the Firefox browser, many of those users are the serious internet surfers. Those in the industry almost universally prefer the open source app to the Microsoft browser.

So when Mozilla announced in 2008 that they would soon release a mobile version of their browser, they generated some buzz. There were some stutter steps with the first versions, but as with all Firefox products, the bugs get worked out pretty quickly.

The latest release is Fennec Alpha 1, and it has been revamped with a CSS user interface. What does this mean? Well, even though the browser only works on Windows Mobile Smart Phones like the HTC Touch Pro currently, the CSS interface means that it will be easily adapted to a wide range of different devices, unlike the original version.

So, if you have another operating system on your phone, no fear. Firefox is making use of  that CSS based interface to create mobile browsers for other systems. Recently, a Firefox official noted that Symbian phones make up nearly half of the smartphone sales, so Firefox will need to “have a presence on the Symbian platform.” So expect a Symbian version to be officially announced in the near future.

Still, there are plenty of other smartphone owners who prefer Firefox as a browser – will Fennec be coming soon to an iPhone near you? Probably not – and you android users need not hold your breath, either.

Firefox officials cite licensing and technical issues that prevent them from developing Fennec for iPhone, RIM and Android. Still, it will be great to see if all the things we love about the PC Firefox browser are integrated into Fennec quickly enough for them to gain a big market share.

Business Updates Through iGoogle

If you use iGoogle as your home page, either on a computer or on a smartphone, you may be interested in some great gadgets that can help you track business finance info easily and quickly. iGoogle is optimized for some of the smartphones, making it work more effectively on some than on others.

If you don’t use iGoogle, you may want to consider it, particularly if this financial information is as crucial to you as it is to many in the business world.

iGoogle is the customizable homepage from Google. It has a Google search bar across the top, then you can customize the page with any of a number of Google gadgets that allow you to check your email, get news feeds you select and a variety of other tasks.

There are a number of great gadgets that provide pertinent and updated financial information as well.

Some of the best are:

Commodities Market. So many businesses are affected by the price of commodities (thinking oil, here). Catch each price change through the day with the shifting conditions by using the Commodities Market gadget.

Company Overview. Hear a bit of news about a company and want to see how that news is affecting stock prices, company officers, or financial ratios? Hear about a new company and want to get some info about company news or key management figures?

With the Company Overview Gadget, all you need to do is type in the ticker symbol for any listed company and you’ll snag all that information and more about any publicly held company. You will even find the means to join quarterly earnings calls for any company you’re interested in.

Track all your stocks right on your home page with the Google Finance Portfolios. Get summaries for all the major indexes, then add each of your own stocks to the gadget. As soon as you open your home page, the info is updated, and you get the latest ion your companies. If you want more details on any company at any time, just click on that company to go to the Google Finance page.

There are many other financial gadgets: Currency Converter if you travel often, Latest Bulls keeping you up on what’s hottest in the market, Dow Jones and Live Gold, just to name a few.

Let iGoogle make it simple for you to keep up with your finances whenever you open your browser.

Symbian – Another Great Mobile Platform

As a mobile device platform, Symbian has been around for years. Although it has been through several name changes and ownership revolutions, it remains by far the dominant platform for the smart phone market in the world.

About 46 percent of the mobile phones in the world operate on the Symbian platform, but most of them are in Europe and the Middle East. However, Symbian is making strides to close the gap in the U.S. and Japan.

Why this matters to you as a developer or a business interested in reaching Symbian customers is that in 2008, Nokia bought all the shares of Symbian that it didn’t already own and announced that it will become an open source platform, like other mobile platforms. This means that anyone will be able to develop applications for the Symbian-based phones.

Although you may think Symbian will be a late comer to the mobile apps market, it would be unwise to count them out. The platform has been around for years, they have a loyal customer base for the Nokia phones, and technology is a fickle thing.

When the iPhone was first released, it was perfection embodied. There was not a criticism to be had. But when Palm released the Pre, suddenly the iPhone seemed stodgy and lacking – what? No cut and paste on an iPhone? How passé.

So all it will take is for Symbian to come out with some great innovations that capture the imaginations of the population, and they can take hold of a significant portion of the market quickly.

With Symbian phones already in the hands of millions of mobile customers around the world – nearly half the mobile device users – developers and businesses would do well to watch the Symbian development as well.

As they go open source completely in the coming months, a huge potential market opens up for anyone ready to jump in and be an early adopter of the platform, the possibilities are endless.

And with a completely different philosophy governing the marketing of the soon-to-come applications, developers may find in Symbian a more open and accessible wireless application partner.

Get Google Voice For Your iPhone – GV Mobile on Cydia

Although Apple has once again bowed to AT&T corporate pressure and banned Google Voice and all related apps from the App Store, you can still harness the power of Google Voice for your iPhone.

Go to  Cydia – a kind of “grey” app store for iPhone – and get GV Mobile. It’s free on Cydia, and it optimizes Google Voice for the iPhone. This is where I picked up my version of GV Mobile, and I’m loving Google Voice. It’s a powerful communication tool that takes advantage of the power of a smart phone.

Google Voice is a groundbreaking application that gives you a free phone number you give out as your cell phone number. Regardless of how often you change phones or providers, this number stays the same. Now you aren’t tied to any particular provider.

You can change your Google Voice settings at any time and have your calls forwarded to any phone number you’d like – landline or wireless. It gives you free text messaging, free domestic calls and low priced international calls – all these features leading to the flak from AT & T.

As for Apple, coming from a company that is built on innovation and pushing the envelope, this and similar profits-driven decisions in the recent past are painting the company out of the innovator category and into the corporate profits at all cost box.

Google’s own app was never approved by Apple, but GV Mobile originally had approval – then AT&T stepped in. Before the official Google app was completed, GV Mobile was yanked, and the official app was rejected.

You do have to “jailbreak” your iPhone to use Cydia apps. It’s a reversible technique, but it does void the warranty on your phone.

If you have an Android phone or a BlackBerry, then you’ve got no problems – there are Google Voice apps for both platforms that came out earlier in July. You know we like the Android platform, and this illustrates another reason that it is gaining strength in the smartphone marketplace.

There’s also a web-based Google Voice application. You can manage your Google Voice mail from your iPhone with the web app, too. So far there are some glitches using a Windows Mobile phone with the web app.

Whatever you do to utilize Google Voice, you are going to be hooked on the service. It’s smooth, it’s simple, and it’s going to change the way you communicate.

Here are the screenshots from my iPhone:

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Is It Coming? Windows Mobile 6.5

While tech savvy and hardware confident users have already “flashed” their smart phones with bootleg versions of Windows Mobile 6.5, the official release has been moved back several times.

The most recent news from Microsoft points toward a fall release for the upgraded system that will replace Windows Mobile 6.1.

What’s coming up with the new release?

First of all, a start menu that produces large icons in a honeycomb shape, rather than numerous small icons in rows. The idea is that these will be easier to punch without hitting the wrong one.

The 6.5 version will also include widgets on the home screen with quick updates on status info – missed calls, new texts and voice mails, etc.

There’s a visual makeover in most spots for the new OS, making things more touch-friendly all the way around, especially in the messaging and email areas.

When the new app is finally official, there will be a new Windows Mobile Marketplace – a great way to consolidate all those different Win Mo apps floating around the internet. While the apps are now subject to Microsoft approval, iPhone apps store has shown this doesn’t need to be much of a problem.

How will the new OS do? Well, considering that every new feature that Windows is touting for the 6.5 version is already available on one or more other mobile operating systems, its hard to say.

Hardware developers like Samsung are advertising their newest phones as being 6.5 compatible and upgradeable, but the release date has already been moved back several times, making the wait a little long.

With so many other mobile OS developers pushing the envelope every day, it appears that Microsoft may find themselves behind the curve. Those dedicated fans who just love their Windows OS will doubtless be there, but bringing in new users will be a stretch for the venerable company.

Seven

No, I am definitely not going to write about the lucky number! I’ll talk about the most anticipated operating system of the year, yet to be released from the stables of Microsoft. Welcome to the new Windows 7.

I already have 7 questions on my mind. What shall be the minimum hardware requirements for this OS? Will the support for drivers be better than the previous releases of Microsoft? Will the new OS beat Vista and rival operating systems on performance issues? What about security? Phew!

Microsoft claims that 7 include “hundreds of improvements based on your feedback” and it runs smoothly, is more reliable and responsive. To some, these promises from Microsoft wouldn’t really matter because of the fact that one size won’t fit all. Though the company is in the process of making high claims about the OS, you simply cannot satisfy each and every user. Moreover, on a lighter note, hundreds of improvements are gateways to a hundred more bugs. I guess Microsoft has taken care of that. We’ll just have to wait and watch.
A fresh OS always brings about fresh thoughts on driver support. If you have been successfully using certain hardware in Vista, it will work on Windows 7. Yes, Vista and 7 drivers are compatible. This might be good news for users who are thinking about migrating from Vista to 7. But if you are using Windows XP, then your hardware vendor must explicitly provide drivers specifically written for 7, for your hardware to properly work.

I had played around with the release candidate some time back and only came to the conclusion that it is slightly more stable than Windows Vista SP1. The UI and the overall navigability of 7 are not strikingly different, but quite similar to Vista SP1 with a few changes thrown around. However, the boot up time and shut down time was quicker than Vista SP1, a statistic that wouldn’t bother me much; I would be more interested in performance. I wouldn’t prefer to comment on that unless the full stable release is on the stands.
Simplicity is sarcastically apparent with 7. The problem is that experienced XP users (in some cases, Vista users too) will have to bear with a few extra mouse clicks to reach to their destination. For example, the “run” option is no more on the Start Menu. You have to search for run, and then click on it from the search results to open up the run window. Moreover in the control panel, you have to put in a few extra mouse clicks to actually select what you would want to do.

4 gigs of RAM is a recommended hardware requirement for Windows 7. Now that’s where things hurt.  Anyway, enthusiasts would go in for the required upgrade, I know. The free release candidate had expired on 1st June. Don’t worry if you’ve missed out. You still have the beta version to download and test.

Let’s see if the guys at Microsoft get lucky with the version 7 this time!

Apps for the Apple iPhone with the iPhone SDK

Through thick and thin, patches and updates, Apple has indeed written a new success story for the iPhone. Taking advantage of the iPhone’s success, business organizations are adding their own value added services to its customers, by creating innovative and new iPhone applications. These third party applications have seamlessly integrated with the iPhone OS. In a nutshell, iPhone applications are taking the market by a storm. What is in for you? Well, to answer that, let’s start!

iPhone Dev Center is the place to get started if you are thinking to build your app for the iPhone. Well this news will dishearten you a bit if you have been developing applications on the windows environment. Yes, iPhone elegantly points you out during registration that the iPhone SDK would require an Intel-based Mac running Mac OS X Leopard as a primary technical requirement. So if you have addressed that technical feasibility, I guess the iPhone SDK is all yours for the taking!

Registration will be over after four easy steps. Well, easy almost. After the process is over and that you have logged in, the Dev Center will present you with the iPhone SDK for iPhone OS 2.2.1 (well, that was there when I last accessed. Don’t be surprised if you stumble upon a newer release!). The SDK includes the Xcode IDE (the integrated development environment to code and test your app), an iPhone simulator, including a set of exclusive tools to develop apps for the iPhone and the iPod touch.

The iPhone simulator is quite a handy tool for testing your iPhone app. The software emulates the iPhone on your Mac. Thus you can get a WYSIWYG visualization of the overall look and feel of the app. As far as getting started with developing your first iPhone app is concerned, the Dev Center boasts of a lot of organized resources and featured content that will help you get a hands-on on the coding guidelines to get your app live.

“…and there is nothing called free lunch!” Yes, if you want what Apple has coined as, “a complete process for developing and distributing iPhone or iPod touch applications”, or more commonly, the iPhone developer program, then you might land up paying $99 for a standard program and $299 for an enterprise program.

Power packed with end to end tools for complete development and deployment of applications on the iPhone, the iPhone developer program provides you with the iPhone SDK 3.0 and the iPhone OS 3.0 Beta, but at a price. So when you pay, you get a direct access to over 1000 new APIs that you can use to enhance the functionality of your applications.

Right through development, testing and distribution, the developer program is the right choice for you if you are more inclined towards building robust enterprise apps for the iPhone. If you are more into developing casual apps or widget like mid sized applications, the SDK would be more than sufficient. With the plethora of information already made available by Apple on the official website, you’ll develop your app within no time. Interested? Get started!