Wednesday, July 1, 2009

Update on Zipcar's Forthcoming iPhone App

Zipcar showed off a new iPhone app last month at Apple's Worldwide Developers Conference that got me salivating (I'm a Zipcar member): it offers GPS help finding cars that are available, and can even honk the car's horn to help you locate it in a parking lot. See the video demo below...

Zipcar CEO Scott Griffith told me today that he has already been testing the beta version on his iPhone, with a few of the company's cars here in Boston. "We're finishing the app now, and then we have to do a complete new software download to our whole car network, so that iPhones will have the ability to honk the horn and unlock the car for you," Griffith said. The app will be free. Griffith estimates that it'll be available in about four weeks. Future versions of the Zipcar app, he added, might give Zipcar members discounts on music, or deals on iPhone navigation apps or other travel-related apps.

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Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Apple Sells Out IDG

Framingham-based International Data Group, with its Macworld magazine and Macworld Expo trade shows, has long been a supporter of Apple, helping to build the company's brand and community through good times and bad.

But Apple just sold out IDG by announcing that it no longer plans to participate in the San Francisco-based Macworld show... and that Steve Jobs won't be giving his regular annual keynote there next month. (Here's more coverage.)

Three years ago, Apple pulled out from the East Coast edition of Macworld, which used to take place in the summer, after IDG decided to move it to Boston from New York City. That killed that trade show.

This is not a happy day for IDG chairman Pat McGovern. Steve Jobs, apparently, does not feel a whole lot of loyalty to long-time allies....

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Thursday, December 4, 2008

Reviewing Vlingo's New iPhone App

I've been following the Cambridge speech-rec start-up Vlingo for a while (earlier coverage here).

Yesterday, they released their first app for the iPhone, which lets you talk to the phone to conduct Web searches, dial your contacts, update your Facebook status, and pull up maps.

In testing it out this morning, its accuracy rate seemed to be about 75 percent.

I tried to update my Facebook status to say "Scott Kirsner is playing with Vlingo's new iPhone app." It came up with " playing with Vlingo is new i phone app." So I tried again, saying, "... is playing with the new iPhone app from Vlingo," and got better results.

It quickly located the restaurant No. 9 Park on a map, as well as Diesel Cafe in Somerville and my home address in Cambridge.

With a Google search, it amazingly got "Hawaiian print quilts" on the first try, but was unable to snag the title of my latest book, "Inventing the Movies," after five or six attempts. ("In the kingdom movies"? Nope. "Investing the movies"? Close.)

The worst part of the app seemed to be voice dialing. You'd think this would be easy, since it's such a limited set of names. But the accuracy declined to about 50 or 60 percent here, in my unscientific test.

The main additional feature I'd want from this app is the ability to use Vlingo to compose text messages and e-mails. (The iPhone's keyboard is horrible!) I'd gladly pay...

There's a video demo on the company's site.

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Wednesday, January 16, 2008

Skyhook links in with the iPhone

Steve Jobs announced yesterday that the iPhone will now know exactly where it is at any time, making the use of Google Maps a lot simpler. Boston's Skyhook Wireless is providing a big chunk of the technology; Skyhook has a giant map of WiFi access points, which it tags with location information, so that when a device like the iPhone can "see" a few nearby WiFi networks (even if the signal is too weak to log on), it knows where it is.

More on the arrangement here.

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Monday, August 6, 2007

Fake Steve Jobs is a Bostonian

The real Steve Jobs lives in Palo Alto, California.

Fake Steve Jobs, it turns out, lives in Boston. The New York Times has outed Forbes senior editor Daniel Lyons (photo at right) as the author of the hilarious (and heretofore anonymously-written) blog "The Secret Diary of Steve Jobs." The publicity may not hurt, since a book by Lyons called "Options: The Secret Life of Steve Jobs" is on the way in October.

Here's a just-posted Forbes Video (chock full of plenty of ads) featuring Lyons calling in from his vacation place in Maine.

Back in 2005, Lyons wrote a widely-read Forbes piece on the increasingly vitriolic blogosphere. He also used to run a blog called Floating Point, which focused mostly on Linux and open source.

Here's some interesting Apple commentary from a Forbes opinion piece Lyons wrote in March 2006 on Windows Vista:

    Given Microsoft's delays I can't believe open-source stuff still hasn't caught on for desktop computers. It's amazing, but people will wait months and months for products that are so complicated that no ordinary person can figure out how to use them.

    Why not at least switch to an Apple Computer Mac? Apple's new operating system is stable, reliable and easy to use. The applications are simple, gorgeous and work well together. And they're here. Today. Steve Jobs must be waking up a happy man this morning.

( has a reaction piece that I totally agree with: what's wrong with people writing anonymously, when no one is being hurt by it?)

One comment I can't resist: has the real Steve Jobs ever owned a button-down shirt and a boring rust-colored tie? This Dan Lyons is clearly a true Bostonian...

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Wednesday, August 1, 2007

Cool People Have iPhones

Since returning to Boston, I've run into three people with iPhones. First, David Rose of Ambient, then Tabblo founder Antonio Rodriguez, and last night, at the Best of Boston party, Plutomedia honcho Pat Mitchell, who paged through some beautiful images he'd created for a new magazine concept that I hope gets launched very soon. (Pat was the design genius behind Fast Company.)

None of these people say that the iPhone is very good as a phone, or an e-mail device, or as a Web access device when connected to AT&T's 0.005 G data network. But it's good for two things: surfing the Web when connected to a WiFi network, and showing off to jealous people who don't have an iPhone.

The iPhone is clearly the Rolex watch for techies.

I told Rodriguez that I couldn't believe that Apple had signed a five-year exclusive deal with AT&T, and predicted that sales will plateau: how many people really want to switch their wireless service to AT&T in order to own a status symbol? Rodriguez had an interesting prediction: Steve Jobs will figure out a way to do an end-run around that exclusive, perhaps by introducing a new or slightly different version of the phone that another carrier will be allowed to market.

(An update: Yonald Chery has one, too.)

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