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March 26, 2012

Siri alternatives for Android

You all know about Siri — the cool iPhone 4S feature which acts as a virtual assistant and responds to voice queries? And you want to do the same on Android but don't know how to?

While Siri is unlikely to be ever ported to Android, there are various alternatives which try to mimic Siri, with some of them very powerful. The major feature that they lack currently is the integration with the Android OS, which will hopefully come as the apps mature.

All of these apps require Google's voice recognition system to function, for which an Internet connection is required, so none of them work offline.

March 19, 2012

Apple to spend cash on dividends and share repurchases

The speculation is over. Apple has announced that it will give a quarterly dividend of US$2.65/share starting from fourth quarter of 2012 (September quarter). The company will also use US$10bn for share repurchases.

Combined the dividend and the share buyback will involve an expenditure of US$22.4bn till Sep 2013.

Let consider what impact this will have on Apple by Sep 2013.

March 15, 2012

Apple scores crucial patent victory against Samsung; FRAND patent counter strategy of Google at risk

Photo credit: Wikipedia
As reported by Foss Patents, The dutch court has ruled that Samsung has to offer fair, reasonable and non-discriminatory (FRAND) licensing terms to Apple for patents essential to 3G/UMTS standard. The ruling will also prevent Samsung from seeking injunctions against Apple's products, using these standards.

This is a crucial victory for Apple which could have major impact not just on Samsung, but also on Google and Android as it limits the use of standards essential patents (SEP) as legal tools against competitors.

March 14, 2012

Yahoo takes Facebook to court: Start of the software/internet patent wars?

After threatening Facebook with a lawsuit last month, Yahoo has now acted upon the threat filing a case and accusing Facebook of infringing on 10 of its patents. The alleged infringed patents include those relating to messaging, news feeds, advertising, preventing click frauds and privacy controls. 

Yahoo had contacted Facebook recently asking for royalties, but filed the case after Facebook refused to pay them. 

Yahoo had earlier sued Google in 2004 for patent infringement related to "pay per click advertising method", which Google settled for ~US$230 million.

Apple v/s Google: Motorola tried to bully Apple in patent negotiations

We had earlier reported that Apple had offered cross-licensing deals to Motorola and Samsung, but the talks failed due to unknown reasons and the patent wars escalated.

Now, in a document filed by the European Commissions (EC) on the proposed merger of Google and Motorola, it has appeared that the licensing deal didn't happen as Motorola/Google tried to intimidate Apple into licensing ALL of its patents, something unacceptable to Apple.

The EC document does not go into much detail on the licensing deals, but there are two interesting points. One relates to Android cross-licensing and the other relates Apple's patents and potential carve outs.

March 12, 2012

Oracle could drop three more patents against Google; Case could become copyright infringement

Oracle has offered to withdraw three more patents in the case against Google/Android in exchange for a spring trial, albeit with a few caveats. If this happens Oracle will be left with only 2 of the initial 7 patent infringement filed against Oracle and the case could largely become a copyright case rather than a patent infringement one. This will come as a big boost to Google and Android.

Rotation Locker: Run Android apps in any orientation — Portrait or Landscape; Straight or Reverse

One  of the things that really irritates me on my Android Xoom tablet is that orientation of  a lot of apps, especially games, is fixed. Sometimes its understandable, when the app has been setup specifically for landscape or portrait. But many times an app capable of running in landscape mode, for ex, refuses to run in reverse landscape mode, when it should be perfectly capable of doing so.

This is probably due to the focus of the developer on phones, which are rarely, if ever, held in the reverse direction. Still, being on a tablet, this is incredibly frustrating, especially when the device is connected to the charger or the PC and I want to hold it in a particular way.

Fortunately, there is an app which can help add this functionality to Android and the best part is that almost all the apps are compatible!