The good news keeps rolling in for BlueStacks, the startup best known for making technology that enables one and all to download and use Android applications on their desktop PCs — and more recently, their Macs. In anticipation of CES, the company announced today that it has secured a global distribution deal with Chinese PC maker, Lenovo.
Lenovo, which some say recently surpassed HP as the largest maker of PCs, now hawks ultrabooks, convertibles and desktops and has been aggressively integrating Windows 8 into its product lines and pushing touch technology upgrades into its laptops. With its new distribution agreement with BlueStacks, Lenovo will begin preloading BlueStacks’ software and service in its Idea-branded PCs — Lenovo’s consumer line, which represents about 40 million units.
The deal, which has been slowly formulated over the last six months, is the latest in a series of similar distribution agreements for BlueStacks, which now includes Asus, MSI and AMD. The most recent of which was its partnership with AMD, secured in September, which enabled the chipmaker to optimize Android apps for AMD-powered Windows 7 and Windows 8 PCs with the launch of its “AppZone.”
All told, BlueStacks’ agreements with Asus, MSI, AMD and Lenovo means that more than 100 million PCs will be preloaded with its App Player software in 2013. This helps give context to the startup’s recent announcement that it had exceeded five million organic installs from its website, something it was able to do in under eight months.
If it wasn’t clear in AMD, Qualcomm and Citrix’s collective investment in BlueStacks (the company has raised a total of $15 million in outside funding from these companies as well as Andreessen Horowitz and Ignition Ventures), some of the largest OEMs out there are clearly eager to tap into the enormous potential inherent to transforming Windows devices into a platform to run mobile apps.
When it comes to PCs, Windows represents a colossal market, but one that has (as of yet) has failed to offer the same access to native apps compared to Google and Apple. BlueStacks’ technology allows OEMs to offer Android apps to its PC users, while enabling developers to touch a whole new audience (of Windows users) without spending months creating a whole new Windows-facing product.
While the company isn’t disclosing the terms of the deal, it’s likely that OEMs are paying for the ability to put BlueStacks’ tech on their machines, seeing as that will give them access to another revenue stream via pay-per-install.
For Lenovo users, this means that they will be able to enjoy the same apps on the PC that they’re already using on their smartphone, with BlueStacks linking their smartphones to the PC via the cloud, enabling them to sync their apps, data and SMSes between their phones and their PCs. When they boot up an Idea PC for the first time, they’ll see Lenovo App Player first thing, along with other content like music and photos. At CES 2013, BlueStacks will be showcasing the latest version of the App Player designed and optimized for Windows 8 Ultrabooks, laptops and tablets.
BlueStacks will also be running all mobile apps on PCs for Lenovo, and the company is set to to launch a mobile app that Lenovo plans to preload onto its phones. This will connect Lenovo PCs to peoples’ Android devices, presumably incentivizing those who have a Lenovo PC to buy a Lenovo phone and sync their apps — and vice versa.
For BlueStacks, these partnerships are all about expanding its footprint and helping to bring Android apps to an enormous audience of Windows users. Of course, it’s not only about Windows users. The company is also in talks with several large TV and phone manufacturers, as it’s looking to integrate its App Player into these next-gen, connected systems.
“In two years, there will be no ‘mobile’ apps as opposed to ‘PC’ applications,” says BlueStacks CEO, Rosen Sharma. “We expect Apple will gel iOS and OSX this year, and we are working on the same for Google.”
Of course, that being said, BlueStacks isn’t leaving Mac users out of the equation. In late December, the startup launched its App Player for Mac in beta, offering those 750,000 Android apps on the market to Mac users. For BlueStacks, it seems clear that the domino effect is underway. Expect to see the connected TV makers signing on next.
It's been just a month and a half since Nokia dropped updates to the Drive navigation and Transport public transit apps it created for Lumia Windows Phones, but the company is apparently hard at work on the next versions. WP7forum claims to have new details on the apps and screenshots to back them up. Nokia Drive 3.0 is reported to be able to "learn" your preferred routes as you drive, provide live tiles with live traffic information, manually adjust routes, and change the color scheme based on the time of day. Transport 2.0, meanwhile, is said to support 87 countries, add local search, search history, and performance optimizations. No word on when either update will arrive, but we'll be sure to let you know when we hear more.
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The new Confluence
In addition to our many software improvements, we’ve increased our reach in the realm of hardware support since Dharma was released. Eden marks the first in-sync stable release for the Apple TV2, iPad, and other iOS devices. We’ve vastly improved the method by which we handle input, including heavily upgrading JSON-RPC support, making remote control support much, MUCH simpler in Windows, and enabling unique methods of device communication with hardware. And now even AMD devices are supported for GPU video decoding in Linux to some extent, thanks to the inclusion of VAAPI.
Beyond XBMC 11 for Windows, Linux, OSX, and iOS, we are also happy to announce XBMCbuntu Final.
XBMCbuntu is very similar to past versions of XBMC Live. By default, the user boots directly into XBMC, and if he/she chooses, he or she will never see the underlying OS. However, unlike Live, XBMCbuntu is now built upon a full LXDE desktop environment, which has a web browser (Chromium) with a fully updated (and updatable) version of Flash built-in and a GUI package manager ready to install and update all of the normal Ubuntu programs a typical Linux user might use. The user may now toggle between XBMC, which auto-starts, and a normal desktop if he or she chooses. And, perhaps most exciting for many users, XBMC will now be upgradeable, both from command line and from the GUI package manager, without fear of crashing the XBMC experience.
Naturally, those users who do not want to see the desktop will never need to. When you boot your computer, you will be booted directly into the XBMC homescreen, just as you are right now. The only clear difference is the new power underneath the hood. Those users who have already installed the Beta version of XBMCbuntu can upgrade to final using the apt-get upgrade commands.
There are truly an incredible number of updates and improvements between Dharma and Eden. But don’t take our word for it. Download XBMC 11.0 Eden now.
Samsung offers Premium Suite software upgrade for GALAXY Note users
March 22, 2012
Software package offers exclusive S Pen applications, enhanced multimedia features, and an Android 4.0 upgrade
SEOUL, Korea – March 22, 2012 – Samsung Electronics Co., Ltd, today announced it will be offering a Premium Suite upgrade for GALAXY Note users worldwide from Q2. It includes extra multimedia features and a range of new S Pen optimized applications in addition to an OS upgrade to Android 4.0 Ice Cream Sandwich.
The Premium Suite offers new features and applications exclusive to GALAXY Note and its innovative S Pen, which includes S Note, a unique tool that lets you combine your notes or sketches with other digital content, giving you a new way to create your own stories. S Note comes in various ready-to-use templates for a range of tasks including meeting minutes, diary and others.
S Note also includes the innovative Shape Match and Formula Match applications that help correct and digitize geometric shapes and even solve numeric formulas hand-drawn with S Pen, increasing your on-the-go efficiency and productivity. You can draw tables and grids which are instantly digitized, saving time and effort. Moreover, by using the S Note’s integrated knowledge search engines, users can quickly search, and obtain information.
For a touch of self-expression, the Premium Suite also includes My Story, another S Pen optimized application that allows you to create personalized digital cards for friends or family using any type of content including notes, video content, photos, text or voice.
In celebration of the Premium Suite upgrade announcement, Samsung will provide special offers to all GALAXY users as an official launch partner of Angry Birds Space, the newest Angry Birds game from Rovio Entertainment. For all Samsung GALAXY users, an exclusive GALAXY Note level will be provided for extra fun. Moreover, a special package of 30 challenging levels – ‘Danger Zone’ – will be available for free if unpacked within the three-month period. Visit http://samsung.angrybirds.com/galaxynote for more information.
“GALAXY Note continues to delight customers all over the world with its incredible versatility and unique user experience. With the Premium Suite upgrade, we wanted to add features that enrich users’ Note experience even more, including the great advantages of Android 4.0 and innovative applications for S Pen,” said JK Shin, President of IT & Mobile Communications Division at Samsung Electronics. “We are committed to providing extraordinary experiences for consumers, and we will continue to provide new features and upgrades to enrich our offering.”
The Ice Cream Sandwich upgrade brings an entirely new look and feel to Android on GALAXY Note, with a more intuitive user interface that includes a redesigned App menu for easier multi-tasking. The upgrade also introduces innovations such as Face Unlock, Snapshot, Android Beam and others.
The availability and scheduling of the software upgrade will vary by market and wireless carriers’ requirements.
Apple's showing off lots of software that's now optimized for the new iPad's Retina display, and an updated version of iWork is among them. Pages, Numbers, and Keynote for iOS have all been updated, still cost $9.99 each, and are free updates for previous purchasers. Apple says these new updates are coming out today, but the old versions are still on the app store as of the moment. Phil Schiller went into minimal details on what changes besides Retina display support were made, and from the looks of Apple's iWork for iOS pages on its site, it seems like there aren't any major consumer-facing features aside from support for the higher-resolution display.
Update: Version 1.6 of Pages, Keynote, and Numbers for iOS 5.1 are now available in the App store. In addition to Retina display compatibility, each app now supports "stunning" 3D bar, line, pie, and area charts. Keynote has a number of other changes, including nine new builds and transitions, as well as animations for the previously mentioned new chart types. Pages now supports the landscape keyboard for iPhone and iPod touch, but otherwise it and Numbers don't have any more new features.
Apple has released new updates for GarageBand to along with the new iPad. Priced the same as the previous generation at $4.99, it has support for the Retina Display and some new features as well. The new features include "Smart Strings" for playing instruments, iCloud support, a note editor, and a cool feature called "Jam Session." Jam Session allows up to four iOS devices to work together over WiFi or Bluetooth to create music in real time. Apple played a brief video demonstrating the feature during its keynote as as you'd expect, it looked like it worked quite well.
True DJs and musicians might be most excited about some of the new sharing features. In addition to iCloud sync, music can be uploaded directly to YouTube or SoundCloud — the latter of which is a killer feature for indie artists.
It's available right now in the iTunes store. Here's what Apple has to say about the new features:
With the new Jam Session feature in GarageBand, you can invite up to three of your friends to get together and wirelessly connect your iOS devices to play and record as a group. Jam Session automatically synchronizes the tempo, key and chords of your Touch Instruments so everyone sounds great. After jamming, everyone’s tracks are automatically collected on your iOS device for you to edit and mix. GarageBand also introduces Smart Strings, a new Touch Instrument that allows you to play an entire string orchestra with just one finger, and the new Note Editor allows you to fine tune a Touch Instrument recording instead of replaying it from scratch. Integration with iCloud keeps your GarageBand songs up to date across your iOS devices, and you can share your finished songs directly to Facebook, YouTube and SoundCloud.
Microsoft is on the verge of signing off the final version of its Windows 8 Consumer Preview. That is the word from a number of sources who tell us that the company has stopped compiling beta builds of Windows 8. The final build will be signed off officially on Friday and is expected to be numbered 8250.
Microsoft will unveil its Windows 8 Consumer Preview work during a special event at Mobile World Congress (MWC) in Barcelona next Wednesday. We are told that the company will release the preview to the public at the beginning of the event, which kicks off at 3PM CET (9AM ET). Build 8250 includes a number of preinstalled games and applications, as well as the new Windows 8 logo. Microsoft has also removed the traditional Start button orb in build 8250, replacing it with the new logo on the charms bar. We will be reporting live from Microsoft's MWC event, so stay tuned for the full details on Windows 8 Consumer Preview.