Publishing: A New E Book Revolution?

Mike Matas: A next-generation digital book

The popularity of e books is undeniable. According to the BBC, the use of e books in the UK has quadrupled in 2010. What started with Amazon’s Kindle and continued with other publisher producing their own version, like Nook from Barnes and Noble, has gotten a tremendous push with the introduction of the iPad and the smartphone apps. Now you can have all your reading material on one portable device that can play videos as well.

Most of the e books still look like books, letters on a page, flipped with a drag of the finger, except the children’s books which have become somewhat interactive, as paper children books have been. Apparently it is easy for 3 year olds to figure out the interactive buttons on the iPad.

How about fully interactive books for adults? That is what Mike Matas presented at a TED conference in Long Beach, CA. in March 2011.  The young developer, who while at Apple, helped design the user interface and artwork of leading Apple products, has shown a demonstration of the first full length interactive book for the iPad.  The company he co-founded with Melcher Media, Push Pop Press, has presented a book called “Our Choice” by Al Gore, a sequel to “An inconvenient Truth”.

This is a book that takes advantage of everything today’s technology has to offer. It starts as a regular written page, with pictures. You can choose which page you want to see by scoring fast through the pages at the bottom. When you want to look closely at the pictures, you can pinch them out of their place and see them full screen. Then you pinch them down and put them back into the book.

The innovation continues when those pictures become narrated videos, which open and close instantly, without loading time. “Our Choice” has over one hour of documentary and interactive animation material throughout the book. Pinch it closed and put it back on the page, or keep it at the bottom for later view. All the photos are narrated as well. Some of them have interactive maps. And while it is playing you can scale it down and continue reading, you can zoom out and see where in the world the photo has been taken etc. You want to find more information about a statistic you read? Swipe right ahead to Google Earth and see how it will impacts different parts of the world, country by country. It has real interactive infographics, and an actual interaction that has been seen on the iPhone and iPad. When you blow on the side of the screen, it moves a wind turbine on screen that shows how much electri city is produced by the wind you are creating. In short – it makes the book come alive with all pertinent information about the subject, and a lot of interesting facts.

And the books are really portable. You can start reading at home on an iPad and continue where you left off on your iPhone, with all those wonderful features on a small screen.

Can you image how much fun reading and learning can be? Many smaller charter schools are already introducing tablets in their classrooms. How long will it be before the students backpacks will be thin and easy to carry?



Google: Social, Cloud and more

It seems these days the biggest players in the computer world are raging wars against each other. And this war has the potential of changing the computing world as we know it.

Google wants a share in social media platform and working very hard to create a model that will work. They’ve tried it unsuccessfully with Google Buzz, and scraped the program when it didn’t work. Its newest attempt, called Social Circles, tracks the path Gmail users take through outside networks like Twitter and LinkedIn.

At the beginning of May an e-mail went out to many journalists and bloggers saying: “Google quietly launches sweeping violation of user privacy!”  It whipped the news media into frenzy. According to the e-mail Google was using the little known feature, Social Circles, to “Scape and mine social sites from around the web … and shares that information.” It was traced back to the big PR firm Burson-Marsteller.

When influential privacy blogger Christopher Soghoian was contacted with an offer to help him draft an article about the subject, he wanted to know who is paying the firm for this job.  The PR firm would not divulge the name of its customer. To warn others, Christopher posted that e-mail exchange on his blog instead.

A few days later Facebook admitted to hiring the PR firm to spread rumors about Google’s user privacy. Well, somewhat admitted, anyway. They admitted to wanting to draw attention to that privacy issue, and it wasn’t meant to be a smear campaign. Facebook and the PR company apologized and admitted mistakes (More to come on this tomorrow).

At the world Economic Forum, held in January of this year, Google’s then CEO Eric Schmidt said that Facebook is not the real competitor to Google, but Microsoft.

Whether it had something to do with his replacement is unknown, but finally, two years after Google released its Chrome browser it is about to  launch its first operating system Chrome, threatening the dominance of Microsoft’s Windows.

Google believes that the way the current operating systems work, whether Windows or Mac, is “so 20th century”. Data is stored on the computer’s hard drive, so if it crashes or is stolen, the data disappears with it. When computers break, it is time-consuming and expensive to fix.

For businesses, the expense is even steeper. After spending money on fixing the computers, you end up with an old one with not enough space. It takes backing up and securing against viruses and Trojan horses. Many companies forbid their employees from bringing in thumb-drives for fear of outside viruses getting into the system. The business spends money on IT personal to keep the computers going smoothly. NetApplications, a services firm, says that about 50% of businesses still use Windows XP, a 10 year old operating system. They did not upgrade to Vista or Windows 7.

Google’s solution? A cloud based operating system called Chrome OS which is about to be unveil on June 15.

Everything will be on the server, not on the desktop. No need for a huge hard drive to store information, no need to back anything up. All a user will have to have is a way to connect to the server.

About 20 years ago Oracle CEO Larry Ellison predicted that a “thin client”, a user without a hard drive, would be the future of business computing. There is finally a serious attempt to do that.

The server will be accessible immediately, no waiting time for booting and updating. The business can be accessed from anywhere in the world, from any computer that runs this operating system.

But Google went a step further and changed the business model as well; for the first time Google is providing both the operating system and the computer (the hardware) in a package deal. For $28 a month ($20 only for government and schools) companies can rent a 3G “Chromebook” from Google and get support, all the programs, and exchange and upgrade the equipment. No need to buy computers or programs, no need for an IT department. “We think this can fundamentally change the way people use computing in companies.” Says Sundar Pichai, Google’s SVP for Chrome.

Google partnered with Samsung and Acer to build the hardware. Different kinds of laptops will be available in June. Thin, light, without a hard drive, for the price of a tablet ($300 – $500).


Google Aims to Save you Time

Google Aims to Save you Time

The long tentacles of Google are everywhere these days – in a good way.

The company is thinking ahead and making life more comfortable, more connected, more immediate than ever before.

It is no longer just a search engine. Google Chrome is gaining in popularity among the web browsers. It had 10 million users at the end of 2008, 30 million at the end of 2009 and in mid-2010 already had 70 million active users. How is that for a growth spurt?

G-mail is popular, simple to use and basically works in a “cloud” – all your information is stored on servers, not on your home computer, accessible from anywhere at any time. It can store all your contacts, all your e mails; you don’t have to back up that information because it doesn’t matter if your computer crashes. The hardware became less important and the information is safe behind strong firewalls.

Google Docs  enables you to hare documents and collaborate with others on the same page, set appointments on Google calendar, and see what’s new with Google Reader and Google Reader Play.

Google Reader

Most of internet savvy people, and especially the young ones, have a few website they like to visit often to see what’s new. The sites can be blogs, professional sites, membership sites etc. Going to each website separately takes time, and then you might find that there was nothing of interest for you this day.

Google Reader comes to the rescue. A program which was launched in 2007, in now becoming very popular. Google reader is an aggregator of feeds and news from your favorite websites, all in one place. Once you go to the site and list your favorite websites, one click only will show you all the new stuff from all your favorite websites in one place, in a headline form.

If you are interested in the subject matter, another click will get you to the website for more in depth information. It saves time and effort and makes getting updates from the sites your anyway go to, much more concise.

Google Reader Play

Lately, Google introduced the Google Reader Play which presents the information in images with a big image at the top of the screen and the different items as thumb nails at the bottom. This is information aggregated from different web sources. You can click on the right and left arrows to scroll through the items or you can click on the thumbnail to enlarge them to the main screen.

The idea that the good stuff is mostly visual is behind this service. It adapts to your tastes as you click on the icons representing marked for later, like, and share. It is still in the experimental stage and can be accessed through Google Labs. This service doesn’t come to replace the Reader but to augment it. While the Reader gives you feeds from your chosen sites, Reader Play gives you information aggregated from sites all over the web.

This forwards thinking and development in many directions at once, is what make this company what it is today. A major player and developer. Where is Microsoft gone to? Google is overtaking them by leaps and bounds. Microsoft seems to be stuck in the browser and office arenas and coming up with new things that just complicate matters instead of making them simpler.

Social Media Trends for 2011

2010 was a banner year for social media. It was the year in which Facebook overtook Google in site traffic. It was a year in which some surveys claim that 95% of companies are using LinkedIn to look for prospective employees.

The use of social media through mobile devices tripled. The tablet became popular and threatens to revolutionize laptops and school books.

What can we expect in the coming year? Here is what a few experts agree on:

–          Big companies will take a serious look at the social media, integrating it not only locally but globally.  Companies like Dell computers and Jet Blue are already doing it.

–          The mobile and tablet war creates social computing – the competition is heating up with new tablets and smart phones coming into the market. It will create more discussions on the web. Social media will be on the go even more than it is today – out of the house, out of the office on the move; in trains, planes and automobiles. There will be more competition, variety and affordability in devices.

–          Facebook location based services will probably overtake all the others. With the huge amount of users –over 500 million – and with tons of data and the programs behind it, they will become the biggest.

–          There will be a social media overload. The average user experiences Facebook, Twitter, G mail, chat, Skype, Tumblr etc. Many experts in social media have adopted systems to access all of them at once but average users might get a case of schizophrenia, with so many profiles on so many social networks. Integration will have to become more wide spread.

–          Social media will be integrated into other tools, making websites important again and more modern.

–          More and more companies will turn their social media connections into customer service, answering questions and complaints.

–          Social recruiting will get bigger. Even small companies will go to social media to find new and better applicants.

Archos 101 and Archos 70 Internet Tabs ruined by Archos business model and execution.

I have had the Archos 101 for the last several days and then added the Archos 70 Internet tablet for my wife. After a few days I am sending them off to ebay. While the Android operating system is all you have come to expect with an open market and system, the products and more importantly Archos as a company fail miserably.

Style: 10/10

The 101 and 70 Internet tablets are sexy, they are light, slim and feature stands built in to allow you to watch media. The ports and accessibility is what you would expect for a tablet hardware system built to interact with everything.

Operating System: 9/10

Android 2.2 Froyo, the system bolsters Androids supercharged operating system, which allows semi common users to customize and maneuver around any limitations attempted by companies like Archos. i.e. adding the google market and flash 10.1

Function: 6/10

As one would expect the 101 has a few issues as the tablet screen doesn’t size up to files and media that looked great on the phones we have all come to love android for. The system struggles to find media and become sluggish. No Flash means the web browsing experience is similar to the Android 1.5 OS.

Archos: 2/10

This is the real failure for the tablets, Archos tried to restrict the market by forcing you to run through their AppsLib instead of google, the tablet requires a bit of knowledge to add google products and software. The company website is a mess, navigating is sloppy and policies prevent the users from accomplishing much. Some of the most surprising failures should have tossed flags up prior to getting the tablet.

1 ) Tablet Release pushed back repeatedly.

2 ) Users that asked to be notified when the tablet released via e-mail got nothing when the Archos 70 IT and Archos 101 IT become available.

3 ) Archos did not restrict purchase quantity much, would be ebay stores bought ten at a time.

4 ) Anyone with a PO Box as their billing info was not getting one, or the software upgrades.

5 ) Customer support averages about a week to respond, if at all.

6 ) The tablet upgraded to 2.2 and wiped out the third party apps.

7 ) Archos did not get the Adobe cert so the tablets did not have Flash

8 ) The AppsLib market has less than 1% of the open market applications.

9 ) Youtube? Um No???? The second largest search engine, owned by the operating system parent company, largest media site and NO!!!

10) Sloppy storage, the tablet can’t tell where the media is, be it internal or storage without having to jump through a bunch of steps to find it.


The use of the Froyo Android 2.2 was a great leap forward in tablets, as anyone who is not a novice can change root files, add software you expect to be a part of Android, but why should you have to know how to do it, this created the greatest problem in my opinion, you just shouldn’t have to work to make it work.

Archos was the big mistake here, trying to control the market, failing to get an adobe certificate which completely canceled the effectiveness of the Android 2.2 web experience is just a few of the many problems. The understaffed and underfunded company tried to take on a monster and got crushed in execution. I expect the value of these tablets to drop dramatically and quickly in the next few WEEKS!!!

Advice: Stay clear of the Archos Internet Tablet line.

Note: I was very excited to see this project and while I tried to find every reason to support the tablet, the ultimate test of a product is the company behind it, Archos clearly made a mediocre product terrible.

Archos 101 Android Tablet to Release Monday

One of the most anticipated tablet releases in the US was held up recently. The Archos 101, which is to feature Android 2.2 was set to release in early October, and while the 8GB model was introduced to the market, techies everywhere where part of the hold out to get the 16GB which provides twice the internal storage at only $50 more, clearly a value worth waiting for.

The real question is how many will become available if Archos does indeed launch the Google Android Tablet this upcoming week? After all with so many holding out for the 16GB one has to wonder how they sold out so quickly of the 8GB….

Some feel that the 8GB was an easy choice as the Archos 101 features a micro SDHC slot allowing for expandable storage up to 32GB, with the option to be able to switch out the portable storage.

The Archos 101 features a powerhouse of technical specs all available on the site:

The one major flaw that the tablet seems to have is an extremly higloss screen, not that I will complain as my use is likely to be mostly indoors and feel that a matte screen protector is likely to pop up shortly.

On the WOW side of things, let’s start with flash and google sync, the Archos company seems to be limiting the Apps store to AdLibbs, but as we all know google is your friend, so expect workarounds to release 5minutes after its release and very simple ones at that.

Flash content is back on the rise now that webmasters everywhere are finding ways to streamline the loading time and creating websites that have a robot.txt pointing to what the search engines need to know to climb the rankings. The google suite of clanders, e-mail and document sharing make the android tablets an attractive business tool, oh and the screen is designed with multimedia in mind based on 16:9, not the iPad’s 4:3.

How do I know that the release is set for monday, well its no secret:

“We are estimating to see the Archos 101 16GB on our webstore as of this Monday.”

Thank you,Brian D – Archos Sales Support

(no spell check sorry heading out fast wanted to release ASAP)

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