Ever since Apple introduced picture-in-picture video in iOS 9, iPad owners have been wondering one thing: when can I use the feature with Netflix? At last, it’s here. An update to the iOS app has introduced picture-in-picture for any iPad running at least iOS 9.3.2, giving you an easy way to keep that House of Cards marathon going while you check email or chat with friends. Netflix is more than a little late to the party (Hulu and others had the feature soon after iOS 9 arrived), but it’s good to know that the streaming service is listening to what viewers want.
Source: App Store
Good news Dallasites, Google Fiber could be headed your way soon. The Fiber team said yesterday it’s considering bringing its high-speed gigabit internet service to Dallas, though it’ll likely be a while before anything actually happens. Google is in talks with Dallas mayor Mike Rawlings, and it’s currently exploring how it could deploy Fiber throughout the city using guidelines laid down in the Google Fiber checklist. Austin was one of the first cities to get Google’s internet service, and it’s currently being deployed in San Antonio as well (where the rollout exploration process took 17 months).
“Dallas is already one of the best cities to work in tech,” wrote Jill Szuchmacher, Google Fiber’s director of expansion. “Google Fiber will help Dallas attract even more tech talent, and push the city further toward the future.” And since Google has already brought Fiber to other Texas cities, it likely has a decent understanding of its local politics and environment.
Google won’t be alone in Dallas, though. AT&T is also based in the city, and it already has its GigaPower fiber internet service available in some areas. AT&T is also planning to bring more fiber service to southern Dallas eventually.
Google Fiber is currently available in six cities, and it’s in the process of rolling it out in another six. Dallas is now the 12th potential city to get the service.
Source: Google Fiber
You no longer have to don a Gear VR headset to watch Hulu in virtual reality. The streaming service has introduced an Oculus Rift app that brings the immersive experience to your PC. The Rift version not only takes advantage of the extra power of a computer (it’s “polished, sharper and highly responsive”), but introduces themed viewing rooms for shows. When you watch 12 Monkeys, it’ll plunk you in the sci-fi series’ Temporal Facility — a bit gimmicky, to be sure, but less illusion-breaking than a virtual living room. Here’s hoping that other shows get a similar treatment, and that HTC Vive owners get their turn.
A company that’s describing itself as the “Tesla of baby monitors” has produced a device that it says is the best way to watch your munchkins at night. Nanit (geddit?) stands over your baby’s crib like a shower head, with a night vision camera and motion sensor aimed towards the mattress. Should it detect any noise or movement, your smartphone will get a ping, enabling you to watch the action as it unfolds. That way, parents in another room avoid the vagaries of simply listening out for signs of distress.
It’s not just for those hours when baby’s in bed and you’re still up, since the device can also offer sensor-free sleep tracking. It’s not clear how it’s achieving that, unless it’s monitoring subtle changes in sound and movement and filling in the blanks. The unit also has a gentle night light, nature soundtracks, can produce white noise and has built-in temperature and humidity sensors.
Even better, is that this isn’t some crowdfunding fever dream like so many products that come across our desks these days. The company has already completed work on the hardware and expects to begin shipping to pre-order customers by Fall. Unfortunately, such magical technology doesn’t come cheap, and the base model will set you back $349 (although it’s currently discounted). Should you want to get the smarter options, like sleep tracking and video history, you’ll have to cough up a little more — with an unlimited option available for $459 right now, but a whopping $649 when it goes on sale.
The news of Microsoft purchasing LinkedIn for a whopping $26.2 billion dollars almost feels like a gag from HBO’s Silicon Valley. Two companies, each often mocked for being boring in their own way, join together to become a sort of Voltron of dull enterprise synergy. The Clippy/LinkedIn invite jokes pretty much write themselves. And yet, dig a little deeper and it’s easy to see why the two companies decided to team up. Microsoft has plenty of uses for a robust business social network, and LinkedIn has little room to grow on its own. And there’s one big reason this acquisition won’t go the way of Microsoft’s Nokia deal: Satya Nadella.
In addition to being Microsoft’s largest acquisition ever, the LinkedIn deal is also Nadella’s first as CEO, so the pressure is on for him to prove it’s worthwhile. But even at this early stage, it’s also clear Microsoft is taking a much different approach with LinkedIn than it did with Nokia’s phone division or even Yammer. For one, LinkedIn will will retain its “brand, culture and independence,” according to CEO Jeff Weiner. Compare that to Nokia’s device arm, which was forcefully assimilated into Microsoft’s mobile group. And while it’s certainly a pricey deal, it’s also one that has some immediate benefits for Microsoft.
Business intelligence isn’t the sexiest of topics, but having one of the most robust data troves out there could do wonders for Dynamics, Microsoft’s floundering customer relationship management (CRM) tool. It could be incredibly useful for a Dynamics user to pull up LinkedIn information around their customers on the fly, for example.
“Think about it: How people find jobs, build skills, sell, market and get work done and ultimately find success requires a connected professional world,” Nadella wrote in his letter to Microsoft employees. “It requires a vibrant network that brings together a professional’s information in LinkedIn’s public network with the information in Office 365 and Dynamics.”
Indeed, Microsoft seems to have more practical potential uses for LinkedIn than Linkedin itself. It could be integrated throughout Office (especially in Outlook) and potentially even Windows (as developer and writer Paul Ford imagines). Outside of Xbox Live, Microsoft has never really had a robust social network and graph to take advantage of — LinkedIn changes that (though it’s certainly no Facebook).
Mostly, though, LinkedIn makes sense because it fits right into Nadella’s revised mission for Microsoft: “To empower every person and every organization on the planet to achieve more.” Again, not exactly sexy, but it’s a philosophy that cuts to the heart of a newer, more productive Microsoft. He’s not out to control entire industries and crush competition like former CEO Steve Ballmer, instead he’s doubling-down on the company’s strengths.
For LinkedIn, Microsoft offers peace of mind. Despite amassing 433 million users and annual profits over $3 billion, LinkedIn has been showing signs of weakness. Back in February, its stock fell 40 percent in a single day after it announced a lowered forecast for the rest of the year. The reasons for that are varied: LinkedIn’s premium subscriptions, its primary source of revenue, haven’t been growing as quickly as it expected. Its marketing business can’t compete with Google and Facebook when it comes to attracting ad dollars, as CNBC reports. And just like many online businesses, LinkedIn’s display ad revenues are also falling.
LinkedIn’s CEO admitted as much in his letter to employees: “Imagine a world where we’re no longer looking up at Tech Titans such as Apple, Google, Microsoft, Amazon, and Facebook, and wondering what it would be like to operate at their extraordinary scale — because we’re one of them.” He also asked workers to think of a world where they’re not just reacting to “the intensifying competitive landscape,” where they’re “not pressured to compromise on long-term investment,” and where they’re not as easily affected by global economic changes.
Basically, LinkedIn has plateaued as an independent company. It has some of the best brand recognition in the world, but it’s also a social network you only need when you’re desperate for a new job. Most of the time, your interactions with LinkedIn probably involve getting annoyed at unwanted connection requests or the vast amounts of spam the company sends out. Its website is a cluttered mess, and even its redesigned mobile apps feel archaic compared to other social networks. It’s hard to imagine how Microsoft could make things any worse.
Sure, Microsoft hasn’t had the best of luck with acquisitions lately, which makes me hesitant about getting too excited for LinkedIn. Its $7 billion Nokia deal was a spectacular failure that forced the company to issue a $7.6 billion write-off. It also paid $6.2 billion for the ad company aQuantive, which resulted in its own $6.2 billion write down. But those were deals made under Ballmer, ones that ultimately led to his ousting. Nadella’s Microsoft is an entirely different company, one that might actually know how to use its expensive new toy.
Peppy, colored customizable Xbox One controllers are coming. Well, in September. That said, you can still design and order the controller of your multi-colored dreams right now, online at the Xbox Design Lab. Until then, here’s some design suggestions — direct from Xbox’s booth at E3 2016. With the choice of colors on the face and shoulder buttons, joysticks, the controller’s faceplate and more, there’s apparently eight million color combinations out there, so some guidance on your $80 custom ‘pad may be appreciated. Blue thumbsticks sound like a good start.
Hey, AT&T subscribers: you no longer need an iPhone to make calls over WiFi. The carrier has introduced WiFi calling for Android. If you have a supporting device (currently limited to the LG G4), a postpaid plan and HD Voice support, you can grab an update that lets you make calls over the internet when cell service just isn’t an option. As on the iPhone, what you pay for a call only depends on who you’re calling — you can reach a US number at no extra charge while you’re abroad. AT&T certainly isn’t the first out of the gate with WiFi calling on Android, but this will definitely make a difference if you’d rather not switch networks just to get the improved coverage.
Apple implemented privacy safeguards on iOS long ago so that when an app requests access to your contacts, calendars, photos, or location, a dialog box pops up asking for express user permission. On iOS 9 and previous software versions, however, that safeguard did not extend to a device’s music library.
Apple developer Ben Dodson addressed the privacy concern in a blog post in January:
I discovered that there is no privacy prompt when a developer tries to access your library. In fact, they can access all of your music data […] This process happens completely silently and in my tests I was able to loop through a library of 10,000 songs, put all the metadata in a JSON file, and upload it to a server in under 2 seconds!
Apple acknowledged the issue earlier this year, and it has now introduced a new Cocoa key called NSAppleMusicUsageDescription that developers are required to use in all apps which access the media library on iOS 10 or later. This change ensures that users have to grant express permission for an app to access the music library.
NSAppleMusicUsageDescription (String – iOS). This key lets you describe the reason your app accesses the user’s media library. When the system prompts the user to allow access, the value that you provide for this key is displayed as part of the alert.
To protect user privacy, an iOS app linked on or after iOS 10.0, and which accesses the media library, must statically declare the intent to do so. Include the NSAppleMusicUsageDescription key in your app’s Info.plist file and provide a purpose string for this key. If your app attempts to access the media library without a corresponding purpose string, your app exits.
The new requirement will prevent third-party developers from being able to access a user’s music library and send data on what’s included back to a server without user-granted permission. This includes changes to the music library, which could have been analyzed for advertising or tracking purposes.
Apple previewed iOS 10 on Monday during its WWDC 2016 keynote, and it has seeded the first beta to developers. A public beta will launch in July ahead of an official release in the fall. iOS 10 is compatible with most iOS 9 devices, excluding the iPhone 4s, iPad 2 and 3, original iPad mini, and fifth-generation iPod touch.
(Thanks, Steve Moser!)
Related Roundup: iOS 10
Tag: Apple Music
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When it comes to smartphone-powered VR, Google Cardboard gets all the attention because, well, it’s pretty much the only game in town. Indeed, WWDC came and went without a single mention of virtual reality, meaning Apple will continue to sit on the sidelines.
Fortunately for iPhone owners, that doesn’t mean you need to switch to Android if you want to enjoy virtual experiences. In fact, you can dive into VR right now; all you need is a headset and some apps.
The headset is easy: Google Cardboard or anything compatible will work with just about any iPhone. To really do this on the cheap, head to Unofficial Cardboard, where you can score a simple, plain-white viewer for free. (You pay only $2.95 for shipping. If you want a decal and/or head strap, you can pay a few bucks extra.)
Your iPhone can pull VR duty. You supply the viewer and the apps.
As for the apps, look no further than the App Store. Mostly you’ll find games in there (and I’ll be back tomorrow to showcase the best VR games for iPhone), but that’s not everybody’s jam. If you’d rather explore the world, take center stage in a documentary or, you know, travel to the moon, check out these amazing iPhone apps.
Google Street View
Want to take a virtual tour of Stonehenge? How about downtown Chicago? Or your very own town? It’s possible thanks to Google’s Street View app.
Street View is the mobile version of Google’s ground-level Maps feature. Put the two together and presto: Now you get a virtual-reality view of anywhere you can visit in Street View.
And Street View has visited just about everywhere: the app showcases not only Google’s own mapping efforts, but also users’. In fact, you can use Street View to create your own 360-degree “photo spheres” and add them to the collection.
Jaunt VR’s interface takes advantage of VR as well.
Screenshot by Rick Broida/CNET
Music, sports, travel, film — the Jaunt VR app aggregates a wide variety of 360-degree and virtual reality videos, all housed in an attractive gaze-based interface (meaning you can navigate just by looking at various buttons and menu options). If you have kids, be sure to let them check out the adorable animated short, “The Invasion.”
Some of the most interesting virtual reality experiences are coming from the New York Times. The newspaper’s eponymous app is home to a number of exclusive cinematic experiences, including a dizzying climb to the top of 1 World Trade Center, a virtual visit to Pluto and a short documentary chronicling children displaced by war. There’s currently no better source for original VR-enhanced stories.
Orbulus Special Edition
Pick an orb, any orb — then get transported to that location.
Screenshot by Rick Broida/CNET
Orbulus is all about 360-degree photo spheres, in this case a collection of user-supplied destinations enhanced with sound or music. To choose a sphere from the gallery, you simply focus on it for a few seconds. Once you’re “inside,” you can zoom in or out by tilting your head right or left. It’s an interesting way to travel the globe, with destinations ranging from Hong Kong to San Francisco.
Vrse is all about the movies.
Screenshot by Rick Broida/CNET
Sort of a mix between Jaunt and NYT VR (with some of the same content you’ll find in both), Vrse focuses strictly on VR cinema. There’s no organization to these curated videos, just a scrolling list you peruse before putting your phone into your viewer. Once you tap a selection, you have the choice of streaming or downloading it — the latter a nice option for offline viewing.
Virtual Reality Moon
Screenshot by Rick Broida/CNET
Sad to say you’re not likely to ever visit the moon for real. The next best thing, at least for now: Virtual Reality Moon. On this free (but heavily ad-supported) trip, you’re instantly transported to the moon’s surface, where you can see both Earth and the International Space Station in the distance. You can also walk around, though this requires either a gamepad or a viewer that has an action button.
Finally, we come to YouTube, which is home to an exploding number of 360-degree and VR videos. Just search the app for anything with “360” or “VR” in the name, or head straight to YouTube’s 360 Channel. But that’s not all: You can actually watch any YouTube video in VR mode. The experience isn’t always great, but it’s still a lot of fun to play around with.
Which VR apps would you consider essential for iPhone users?
Android N is set to bring new desktop style floating windows to smartphones and tablets, already seen in the preview, which has now been shown off officially with a task bar.
The SVP of Android, Chrome OS and Play, Hiroshi Lockheimer tweeted a photo of what appears to be Android N displayed in floating window mode.
At its most basic this mode is similar to multi-tasking except rather than layering the windows they can be moved about and resized. The advantage of this should be easier multitasking and, ultimately, a more desktop like experience on mobile devices.
Previously, in previews, the floating windows were shown on a wallpaper background. The latest photo reveals that there may also be an icon bar at the bottom, similar to Windows. This appears to have a search icon then apps that are open. Tapping these should bring them to the top or shrink them, presumably. There also appears to be status icons, like Wi-Fi, time, profile and more at the bottom right.
The photo was a screenshot so it’s difficult to know if this is tablet, phone or even output to a monitor. What has been made clear from the preview is that this mode will support a mouse cursor. Add in a keyboard and we could be looking at a fully functional computer mode all from an Android device.
Google has said that the final version on Android N will be available by the summer. Don’t expect it to arrive until later in the year, around October, when Nexus devices should get it first.
READ: Android N preview: Everything you need to know about Android 7.0