Editorial for iPad combines text editor functionality with a scriptable Python interpreter

The simple writing/text editing field across iOS is fairly crowded with products like IA Writer, Pages & others taking up most of the market share. Editorial is a new app for iPad that gives users not just text writing/editing ability but also the power to script with a built-in Python editor and edit Markdown.

Editorial features an extended Markdown keyboard, extensible workflows and the ability to either save documents to the iPad itself or sync them up with your Dropbox account. Maybe the most interesting characteristic that sets it apart from other editors is its built-in Python interpreter that lets you run code and test on the fly, including integrating scripts into workflows.

Check it out here.

LINK: New rules for iOS 7 Apps for new users under 13 (TechCrunch)

Making apps available directly to younger kids will mean Apple faces a lot more scrutiny, both formally and informally. The new guidelines address both, including a couple of items that address Children’s Online Privacy Protection Act (COPPA) requirements, and adding a whole new section about apps aimed specifically at the under-13 set.

Where is the inflection point in wearable technology when useful becomes intrusive?

Harvard Business Review has a great piece that speaks to the burgeoning use of wearable technologies in the workplace for a variety of means but mostly to allow employers to gain a better understanding of trends in work behavior, health, safety etc. The HBR piece profiles a Tesco in Ireland were workers are having their movements quantified to ensure they’re maintaining a certain level of consistency in line with organizational goals:

Many wear armbands that track the goods they’re gathering, freeing up time they would otherwise spend marking clipboards. A band also allots tasks to the wearer, forecasts his completion time, and quantifies his precise movements among the facility’s 9.6 miles of shelving and 111 loading bays. A 2.8-inch display provides analytical feedback, verifying the correct fulfillment of an order, for instance, or nudging a worker whose order is short.

The grocer has been tapping such tools since 2004, when it signed a $9 million deal for an earlier generation of wearables to put into service in 300 locations across the UK. The efficiency gains it hoped for have been realized: From 2007 to 2012, the number of full-time employees needed to run a 40,000-square-foot store dropped by 18%. That pleases managers and shareholders—but not all workers, some of whom have complained about the surveillance and charged that the system measures only speed, not quality of work.

You can certainly make the case that employers have a right to track employee productivity to a large degree and they’ve been doing it for years through imperfect means, whether it be timesheets, clock-ins, performance reviews and the like. Wearable technology though gives employers a brand new toolbox to track physical movements and for blue collar work environments especially, this is likely to drive a considerable amount of decision-making. I can also see it engendering an even wider range of distrust between workers & management. We don’t produce the same output every day: am I now at risk of be booted from my job if I miss my quota by 2.5% percent on a given day?

The likely outcome is that bad employers will abuse these technologies in line with what they’ve traditionally done. Good employers will do the opposite as they’ve traditionally done. What say you?

Harvard Business Review: Wearables in the Workplace

Rwanda-based TextIt allows for custom SMS applications to be built on the fly and connect with feature-phone customers in any country

A big part of what we want to showcase at Breaktap involves the real-world impact mobile technology has on the people who engage with it, regardless of their location, social status, gender or any other commonly held identifier. Oftentimes, this means the most comprehensive software delivered through the fastest medium possible. Other times it doesn’t. For developing nations, the cost of higher-end smartphone models is still  out-of-reach for most of the population and feature phones tend to be the norm. But how to reach them? What’s the best way to connect with the thousands of folks already utilizing their phones to make payments, check their bank account statements, even revolutionize traditional farming techniques?  SMS.

Which is where TextIt comes in. TextIt is a Rwanda-based service that lets anyone map and develop an SMS application, from user flow construction to implementation. It allows would-be developers to reach out to their users and ask questions, answer support requests and a myriad of other use cases. Messages can be labeled and responded to as you would with any standard e-mail program. Additionally, TextIt features a real-time analytics engine that can track interactions at the most granular levels so developers can organize and make sense of the data they receive in return.

TextIt can be initiated through an App the team developed for Android, which can you download from their web site. The team also provides an API so publishers can integrate the service with their own web site. Pricing is free for anyone sending 100 or less messages per month, with monthly plans in the Silver, Gold & platinum range starting at $99 a month if you need a more robust engagement.

H/T HackerNews

Samsung channeling 2005 (at least in China) with introduction of new flip phone designed for people who apparently didn’t experience 2005

Samsung’s made a flip phone, which is sort of odd since the last time most technologically-aware people carried around flip phones was roughly eight years ago. (Virgin Mobile OYSTR for the win)

But it also functions as a smartphone. So that’s different. And it’s named after the infamous liquor. See? Hip.

According to Pocket-Lint, it’ll support both CDMA & GSM bands. You can check out the full spec list here, if you’re into that kind of thing.

Intel flails its collective arms defending the PC, misses obvious marketing hook in battle with tablets

Intel held a  PC-boosting pitch event last night where not only did they showcase the wares of manufacturing partners Acer, Dell, Lenovo and others but also declared that there’s in fact, “never been a better time to buy a PC.” Not that there’s really ever been a bad time, mind you, but in the face of ever-increasing tablet sales that threaten to eclipse the PC at the top of the computing heap, well, it pays to hear that PCs are still smart and wonderful and everything else.

So the team used the opportunity to rattle off a number of statistics from their survey in June: 97% of people still consider a PC their primary computing device, nearly 3/4s of surveyors considered a PC essential to their daily existence, etc.

But it seems like they were missing the obvious counterpoint, one that anyone who actually needs to get work done would appreciate. Luckily, Arik Hesseldahl of AllThingsD pointed it out:

But where the PC shines is in productivity. As much as consumers like their tablets, when it comes to getting anything important done, the PC is the tool they use to do it: 83 percent of respondents to the IDC survey say they are more productive on a PC than on a smartphone or tablet. This, I think, represents the path that PC makers might consider in seeking to arrest their alarming decline.

Bingo. Tablets (and smartphones for that matter) are getting better at things like this but the inability to multi-task on anything running iOS kills productivity in situations where data has to be copied back and forth. Not to mention continuously clunky document editing.

If there’s anything worth attacking the tablet market over (at least in the interim), it would be that.

ChargerGenie: One-Stop-Charging and the added bonus of not looking all over the house for your devices

You have lots of devices. You have lots of different chargers for those devices. You leave said devices all over your house and spend 20 minutes scrambling before leaving for work everyday compiling those devices. You realize Device ‘X’ isn’t charged. You get mad and sulk on the train as your fellow passengers happily tap/read/browse away, mocking you with their charging proficiency.

OK, maybe the last few sentences are just me. But solutions like this speak to a serious problem that most of us technophiles face: a cacophony of devices and chargers without a central hub. The ChargerGenie hopes to put a dent in this problem with a bag that acts as a power strip (pluggable into any electrical outlet) and allows for up to 6 USB connections. Keep everything stored at home, travel with it, go outside with it; everything is stored in one location.

They’re looking to raise $45,000 to manufacture the first batch. They’re over halfway there with a little over a month to go. You can learn more about the project here.

Gartner: Smartphones (finally) exceed feature phones on global sales

From Gartner:

Worldwide mobile phone sales to end users totaled 435 million units in the second quarter of 2013, an increase of 3.6 percent from the same period last year, according to Gartner, Inc. Worldwide smartphone sales to end users reached 225 million units, up 46.5 percent from the second quarter of 2012. Sales of feature phones to end users totaled 210 million units and declined 21 percent year-over-year.

Unsurprising of course.

Seems like Blackberry does have value to potential purchasers: well patent trolls, anyway.

Writes AllThingsD’s John Paczkowski:

Patents accumulated over a long career of pioneering work in the smartphone space. And it’s likely these that are among BlackBerry’s most valuable assets. Recall that Nortel’s portfolio of more than 6,000 wireless patents sold for $4.5 billion back in 2011 (ironically, to a consortium that included BlackBerry); that same year, Google ponied up $12.5 billion for Motorola Mobility, citing the company’s patent portfolio as part of its rationale for doing so.

So, how much might BlackBerry’s patents be worth? Well, the company currently has 5,236 active U.S. patents and about 3,730 active applications in the wireless communications space. And, according to Chris Marlett, CEO of MDB Capital Group, an IP-focused investment bank, they’re pretty valuable.

Marlett figures that BlackBerry’s IP is worth $2 billion to $3 billion if it were to be acquired by a consortium in some sort of cross-licensing deal. “$2 billion to $3 billion … is easily justified .. as there are approximately 9,000 patent assets with probably 100,000 claims that someone could take a shot at you with in a lawsuit,” Marlett told AllThingsD.

But BlackBerry’s IP would be worth significantly more if its purchased by a lone company. “If (there’s) a bidding war, I think the number can go as high as $4 billion to $5 billion,” Marlett said.

Of course with Samsung and Apple going back and forth trading blows in the courtroom, maybe we need to re-think the whole patent troll pejorative anyway. At least until legislation passes to limit this kind of innovation-stifling behavior, especially in the mobile space.

Be that as it may, this is still significantly more than I think most people would think when they think of a potential acquisition price for Blackberry when you take into consideeration a continuously failing mobile hardware business, a seemingly hasty exit from the tablet market and a BBM announcement that came at least three years too late.

As the third wheel in all of the discussions over the major mobile OS’s, maybe Microsoft makes a play for them? Certainly, they have the cash and adopting Blackberry’s users would be more than a minor coup. Just thinking out loud….

It Begins

I went to the NYC Mobile Apps Meetup a few months ago over at Alley NYC, a co-working/event space in the heart of Midtown Manhattan. Erick Schonfeld, ex-TechCrunch editor was the guest. He was promoting the latest DEMO Conference to be held in San Francisco later in the summer. This latest iteration was specific to mobile, so naturally he was here to promote the event but also get a vibe for anyone working on anything mobile-specific that might be of interest to investors, press etc.

Anyway, Erick gave a solid State of the Union on the mobile landscape and we had a nice roundtable discussion at the end. I was talking to some folks afterwards who were lining up to meet him, pitch him, exchange cards etc. I didn’t anticipate doing it but for whatever reason, I ended up talking to him once my new friends were done with their pitches. I told him about our curated e-mail list. I didn’t even have the words halfway out of my mouth when he said:

“Why not a blog?”

“Well,” I said, “I wanted to start small and I feel like the list is a good way to build up an audience and some recognition before producing original content and I’m using lean methodologies to get a sense of whether or not this is something that people (and advertisers) would potentially pay money for and it’s a good way to test the waters and this day job and this 2 hour commute” and on and on I went. I had it all down.

“Yeah, but why not a blog?”

At this point, I can’t even remember what I said. But the truth was that I didn’t have a very good answer. My reasoning amounted to a bunch of bullshit excuses. The truth was that there was no reason why I couldn’t blog and produce original content.

I’d like to say it was Erick’s words that motivated me the very next day. But it didn’t. It took a few months and yet another disappointment from a (potential) employer to lift the cocoon of BS I was enveloping myself in. Things are much clearer now.

In any event, here it is. I’m blogging now. And I’m going to continue blogging. We’re going to cover the mobile & wearable space exclusively and focus on the startups that are ushering in an era of computing that goes beyond the increasingly truck-like PC.

Don’t worry. The list isn’t going away. In fact, it’s going to be more prominent than it’s ever been. I hope it’ll serve to augment what we report on and give you as clear an understanding of the mobile space as you’d find anywhere else.

Thanks for reading. Long live Breaktap.

Blair MacGregor
August 13th, 2013