Google seeks to expand ‘wearable’ options with Android Wear program

The Moto 360 Android

The Moto 360 Android

Google made a lot of noise a few years back with its push for Google Glass project, a pair of glasses that are connected to the Internet and now it is adding a second front in the wearable war with a push that it calls Android Wear.

The company has launched the Android Wear project in an effort to greatly expand the market for wearable hardware and related technology, with but not limited to helping a new generation watches running the company’s Android operating system.

The core of the effort will be a Software Developers Kit (SDK) that the company will be delivering to interested developers later this year.

While connected watches seem to be the first area that this effort will have an impact Google sees the effort expanding into other areas including bringing additional technology to more established platforms such as tablets.

However watches seem to be at the forefront of this space and potential developers that include everybody from Nike to Apple have indicated some level of interest in developing a watch. In addition there are already several connected watches on the market such as the Samsung Galaxy Gear and Pebble’s Steel Watch. Google has a number that have now announced their intention. With such a huge position in the smartphone operating system already Google has a huge advantage and it looks to be building on it quite quickly.

Several partners have already announced intentions to build watches and in some cases have shown examples of their development efforts. Motorola, unsurprisingly, has one in development called the Moto 360 Android that it said will be available this summer while LG Electronics said it would introduce its first Android watch, the G Watch, sometime this quarter.

The watches will be equipped with a variety of sensors and the ability to connect to an Android phone. So it can sub for the fitness trackers that are popular with the athletically inclined. It will allow notifications and text messages to be forwarded from a user’s phone and enable voice replies.

I imagine it would be a great tool to use to cheat on exams, but that might just be me. However being in a meeting and getting, say, March Madness game updates, could be a boon for those times when it is frowned upon to look at your smartphone. However the flip side of this is that many, at least those of us old enough, might just see this as a glorified pager with a bit more functionality.

NFL analytic app for fans, IronRank, comes to Android


There has been a huge upsurge in using advanced statistical analysis in all aspects of pro sports, with baseball leading the way, but football is rapidly catching up. IronRank has developed an app that allows fans to take advantage of the current generation of analysis.

The company has developed a method of ranking players and teams based on the standard Elo rating system and then takes the numbers it gets from the analysis and assign them to each team, which in turn is used to predict the score.

The program does an analysis on the entire team but also does separate ones for both the offense and the defenses of each team as well evaluating how teams do in the red zone, passing yards, touchdowns and other related categories. For a full look at how it does its analysis look here.

If the Elo system sounds familiar that might be because it has been used for evaluating tennis players as well as chess matches and has been found to be very accurate. IronRank said that the program so far has been successful picking winners 65% of the time and as the season progresses and more statistical information become available it increases its accuracy.

The program provides predictions on each game and ranks teams based on their division as well as their offensive and defensive capabilities. It features all of the stats that a fan could wish for and also provides past game results and provides a solid overview of a team’s performance as the season progresses.

The company now has an app available for Android devices and is working on one for iPhones. It also has a web site that has been up and running for some time. You can also follow the site at Facebook, Twitter and Google+.

There has been plenty of sports betting apps that have been released over the past few years, and few have had much staying power. However what appears to be different here is that the program uses a widely recognized, and successful system and simply applied it to the NFL. It will be interesting to see how IronRank does over the next season or two.

MLB Updates a Trio of Mobile Apps Ahead for Opening Day


Major League Baseball’s 2013 season has started and the league has updated a number of its successful programs from last year as it seeks to increase its appeal to fans that use mobile connected smart devices.

The heart of the effort is its at Bat 13, which for most mobile users has been available since Spring Training started. At Bat has a host of features that we have recounted earlier so we will just list the basics here. It gives users the ability to listen to live games on a breadth of platforms including PCs and Macs, as well as most smartphones and tablets.

The platform has a wide range of features that will appeal to both serious and casual fans including individual team pages, player statistics, video highlights of current games as well as a classic games video library.

One new feature that is just ready for the regular season is support for the BlackBerry Z10, the latest platform to be supported along with Android and Apple’s iOS. If you already subscribe to MLB.TV Premium then At Bat 13 is free, otherwise it has a $19.99 one time annual fee.

A second app is At the Ballpark, which MLB is expanding to include more parks. The app is part journal, where you can record current trips as well as past ones as far back as 2005. The journal section includes the ability to share photos from the visits. It has a tickets purchase and upgrade sections for select clubs, a range of social media hooks and even allows users to hear ballpark and player entrance music.

The final app is one that can have a great payback for fans; Beat The Streak presented by Dunkin Donuts. It is a game where fans pick players to get a hit and if they manage to beat DiMaggio’s consecutive game hitting streak of 56 games you can win a $5.6 million grand prize. No one won last year and a new rule has been added this year that if you forget to post for a day your streak will not end.

PCs Sales Suffer as Tablets and Smartphone Sales continue to Soar


A recent press release from market research company IDC highlights the growing importance of tablets to users seeking to stay connected with a smart device as they have become a driving force in a huge and growing market.

The latest results from IDC’s Smart Connected Device Tracker shows that overall shipments of smart connected devices grew 29.1% last year and that units edged past the 1 billion shipped level for the first time, with a value of $576.9 billion.

Tablet sales grew 78.4% compared to 2011, reaching 128 million units for the year. Smartphones continued to also see strong growth, increasing by 46.1% while the big loser were PCs, both desktop and notebooks, with drops in sales of 4.1% and 3.4% respectively.

And the forecast is rosy for tablets and not so good for the old stalwarts in the PC market. As the tablet space starts to mature sales will slow as a percentage of growth, dropping to an estimated 48.7% this year and 10.6% by 2017 while smartphones will drop to 27.2% growth this year and 9.8% in 2017. On the flip side of the coin desktop PC sales will continue to drop, seeing a 4.3% decline this year and a 1.0% in 2017 while notebook sales are expected to see some rebound to an increase of 0.9% this year and a 3.7% increase in 2017.

Part of notebooks’ issues can be seen in that tablets are now emerging as the go-to device in developing markets, but IDC estimates that users will often move onto, or add, notebook computers at some point in the future.

IDC estimates that worldwide shipments will continue to remain very strong overall and should reach 2.2 billion units and $814.3 billion by 2017.

7-inch Asus Fonepad With 3G Slated for March Release


Asus is the latest to get into the multifunction 7-inch tablet space with its Fonepad, a device that functions as both a tablet and a smartphone, something that will go head to head with other devices in this emerging category such as the recently released Samsung Galaxy Note 8.

The handheld is powered by an Intel Atom Z2420 processor running at 1.2GHz and will feature 1GB of RAM, and will be available with either 8GB or 16GB of storage while a microSD slot enables users to add additional storage up to a total of 32GBs.

The 7-inch display has 1280 x 800 HD resolution and it features a 1.2MP front facing camera while an optional rear facing 3 MP camera with 720p HD video recording capabilities is also available. It uses the Android 4.1 Jelly Bean operating system.

The Fonepad has an expected nine hour battery life and comes with built-in 3G with HSPA+ mobile data so that users can browse and download data and apps as well as use it as a telephone. The company has included a set of Asus exclusive apps including Floating App for easy app management and simpler multi-tasking; SuperNote lite for handwritten notes; and WebStorage Office Online for Microsoft Office-compatible document editing on the move. Fonepad users also get 5GB of free lifetime ASUS WebStorage.

It is expected to ship next month and will have an entry price point of $249. It seems that the smaller form factor is heating up as the new place to be, with an increasing number of companies entering the space. I suspect we will see a number of additional offerings in this space over the next few months as handset developers as well as tablet companies seek to carve out some of the market for themselves.

MLB’s AT Bat 13 Also Shows Up for Spring Training

at bat

For many baseball fans one of the landmark days of the season is when pitchers and catchers report. For others it has now become when MLB.Com releases its At Bat mobile sports program at the start of each season.

The popular app is now in its fifth season and it is now available on a much greater variety of platforms than ever, with its mainstay Apple iPad and iPhone as well as support for Android-driven smartphones and tablets. New this year will be the support for the BlackBerry 10, due by opening day. Apparently still no Windows Surface Pro support.

Like the players the app is now only ready for Spring Training but there will be an Opening Day update soon. It costs a onetime fee of $19.99 for the entire season including the World Series, although there are a few options. Subscribers to MLB.TV Premium can upgrade to MLB AT Bat 13 for free while Apple’s iOS users can get a monthly billing of $2.99 a month if they wish.

As with every year there are new and/or enhanced features with the program, and it also varies a bit by which operating system and device you are using to view the app with although the differences are narrowing.

Some of the features for all devices include a new app navigation system, searchable video highlight library, and a classics games video library archive. For iPad and Android tablet users there is also sortable batting, pitching and fielding statistics as well as favorite team enhancements. Then there are also ones just for smartphones such as new team pages and revamped news interface.

There is also a host of Spring Training features including the ability to watch an estimated 200 games, live audio broadcasts, scoreboard tracking as well as breaking news and full season calendars.