Angry Birds developer Rovio Entertainment has announced the acquisition of Futuremark Games Studio. The gaming arm of Futuremark, developer of benchmarking software such as 3DMark and PCMark, Futuremark Games Studio produces games for the iOS, Mac and PC platforms including such titles as Unstoppable Gorg and Hungribles for the iPhone, iPad and iPod touch. Futuremark Games marks Rovio’s second acquisition over the past year, following the acquisition of Kombo Animation Studio last summer.
Popular video conversion utility HandBrake has been updated to version 0.9.6. The update brings with it a number of bug fixes and improvements, including audio gain control, improved support for OS X Lion, improved handling of DVD subtitles without Stop Display commands, HE-AAC encoding support, and improved average frame rate detection. HandBrake 0.9.6 is available now as a free download for Mac, Windows, and Linux.
In celebration of the 40th anniversary of Atari and the venerable Pong, Atari has announced that it will be holding a contest calling on independent developers to re-imagine the classic game for the iOS platform. The Pong Indie Developer Challenge will provide entrants with the opportunity to win up to $100,000, and finalists will have their creations launched on the App Store under the Atari brand. Winning entries will also receive a long-term publishing arrangement with Atari including development, creative resources and full marketing support.
The Pong Indie Developer Challenge builds on the success of Atari’s other recent indie-developed mobile games such as Asteroids Gunner, Atari’s Greatest Hits and Breakout Boost, providing opportunities for promising new iOS game developers. The judging panel will include original Atari founder Nolan Bushnell, Pocket God creator Dave Castelnuovo, and members of Atari’s executive team. Atari fans will also have the opportunity to submit their own votes as part of the selection of an Atari Community Winner. Full details on the contest and rules along with submission and prize information can be found at http://www.atari.com/pongdeveloperchallenge.
The third edition of iPod and iTunes Portable Genius, penned by iLounge Applications Editor Jesse Hollington, is now available. Weighing in at 384 pages, the book includes a number of useful how-tos, tips, full-color screenshots, and other information for iPod and iTunes users. The third edition contains a variety of updated information, including details relating to iTunes 10.5, iOS 5, iTunes Match, and iCloud. iPod and iTunes Portable Genius is available now from Amazon and from the iBookstore; pricing varies by format.
Former Palm CEO and Apple senior vice president Jon Rubenstein has left HP effective today. AllThingsD reports that Rubenstein is said to have no immediate plans after fulfilling a 12-24 month commitment to stay at the company following its acquisition of Palm. “Jon has fulfilled his commitment and we wish him well,” said HP spokeswoman Mylene Mangalindan. Rubenstein, commenting to AllThingsD, said, “I am going to take a well deserved break after four and a half years of developing webOS.” Best known for his work on the iPod—he was senior vice president of Apple’s iPod division when he left the company—Rubenstein joined the private equity firm Elevation Partners shortly after it invested in Palm, and became Palm CEO in 2009 before taking an executive position at HP after the acquisition.
According to Epic Games’ forums as well as the experience of at least one of our editors, players are experiencing significant bugs when it comes to their saved games in Infinity Blade II; it’s an issues that only becomes apparent after further testing. The bug seems to be related to iCloud saving and syncing, as many people are losing saved games when they download the game to a second device. We highly recommend that players interested in Infinity Blade II wait until these issues are resolved, as they could potentially come at a the cost of a significant time investment as well as money in the form of lost In-App Purchases.
In addition to some great Black Friday deals on games this week, several other application developers are also offering discounts over the holiday season.
Garmin will be selling its StreetPilot Onboard navigation apps at 50% off on Black Friday only, allowing you to pick up Garmin U.S.A. for $25 or Garmin N. America for $30. In addition, the Navigon line of navigation applications is on sale until November 30th at $30 for Navigon USA and Navigon Canada or $40 for Navigon North America. The Navigon Regional apps for U.S. West, U.S. Central and U.S. East are also on sale for $20 each.
ALK Technologies has also marked down its CoPilot Live lineup of GPS navigation apps by 50% until Monday, including CoPilot Live Premium USA ($10), CoPilot Premium HD USA ($13), CoPilot Live Premium North America ($13), CoPilot Premium HD North America ($15), CoPilot Live Standard USA ($3) and CoPilot Live Standard North America ($4).
Readdle is selling its entire catalogue of iPhone and iPad apps at up to 40% off for 48 hours only over Friday and Saturday. Apps on sale include
PDF Expert for iPad ($7), Scanner Pro ($5), Calendars ($5), PDF Converter ($5), ReaddleDocs for iPad ($3), Printer Pro for iPad ($5), Printer Pro for iPhone ($3), Card Scanner Pro ($5), Flash Drive ($2), PDF Expert for iPhone ($7), PDF HD ($2), ReaddleDocs for iPhone ($3) and Shakespeare Pro ($7).
A number of iOS game developers have announced significant Black Friday and Cyber Monday deals on a wide range of game titles.
Chair Entertainment has dropped the price of Infinity Blade to $3.
Gameloft has 20 of its titles on sale for $1 each, including Assassin’s Creed: Altair’s Chronicles, Assassin’s Creed: Altair’s Chronicles for iPad, BackStab, Eternal Legacy, Eternal Legacy HD, Fast Five the Movie: Official Game, Fast Five the Movie: Official Game HD, Gameloft Action Pack, Gameloft Sports Pack, Iron Man 2, Iron Man 2 for iPad, James Cameron’s Avatar, James Cameron’s Avatar for iPad, Prince of Persia: Warrior Within, Prince of Persia: Warrior Within HD, Rayman 2: The Great Escape, Real Golf 2011, Real Golf 2011 HD, Sacred Odyssey: Rise of Ayden, The Settlers, The Settlers HD, Shadow Guardian, Shadow Guardian HD, Shrek Kart, Shrek Kart HD, Silent Ops, Spider-Man: Total Mayhem, Spider-Man: Total Mayhem HD, Splinter Cell Conviction, Splinter Cell Conviction HD, Starfront: Collision, Starfront: Collision HD, Zombie Infection, and Zombie Infection HD
Electronic Arts has dropped prices on a significant portion of its catalog as well, with the following titles on sale for $1: American Idol: The Game, Anytime Pool, Dragon’s Lair 2: Time Warp, Dead Space, FIFA 10 by EA Sports, FIFA 11 by EA Sports, Fight Night Champion by EA Sports, Monopoly, Monopoly Here & Now: The World Edition, Need for Speed Undercover, Need for Speed Hot Pursuit, Risk, Scrabble, Shift 2 Unleashed, The Sims 3, The Sims 3 Ambitions, The Sims 3 World Adventures, The Sims Medieval, Draw Jump HD, Battleship for iPad, Command & Conquer Red Alert for iPad, Coconut Dodge for iPad, Max and the Magic Marker for iPad and Tiger Woods PGA Tour 12 for iPad.
Other Electronic Arts titles on sale include Battlefield: Bad Company 2 for iPad ($3), Dead Space for iPad ($5), FIFA 11 by EA Sports for iPad ($5), FIFA Soccer 12 by EA Sports ($3), FIFA Soccer 12 by EA Sports for iPad ($7), Madden NFL 12 by EA Sports ($3), Madden NFL 12 by EA Sports for iPad ($5), Mirror’s Edge for iPad ($2), Monopoly for iPad ($3), Monopoly Here & Now: The World Edition for iPad ($3),NBA Jam by EA Sports ($2), Need for Speed Hot Pursuit for iPad ($5), Pictureka for iPad ($2), Risk: The Official Game for iPad ($3), Scrabble for iPad ($3), SimCity Deluxe for iPad ($2) and Shift 2 Unleashed for iPad, Tetris for iPad ($3), The Game of Life for iPad, Trivial Pursuit Master Edition for iPad ($3) and Yahtzee HD for iPad ($3).
Late Apple co-founder Steve Jobs’ official biography, Steve Jobs by Walter Isaacson, is now available on the iBookstore and through other retailers. Based on more than 40 interviews with Jobs conducted over the last two years of his life, as well as interviews with more than 100 family members, friends, competitors, and contemporaries, the book spans Jobs’ entire life from his younger days growing up in Mountain View, CA, to his decision to step down as the CEO of Apple earlier this year. As expected, the book also holds several surprises, as Jobs spoke openly of his thoughts regarding competing products — Android in particular — and of the inner works at Apple; we’ve collected a few such anecdotes here. Steve Jobs by Walter Isaacson is priced at $17.
As is common with many literary releases, several copies of late Apple co-founder Steve Jobs’ authorized biography—Steve Jobs by Walter Isaacson—have leaked out prior to the book’s official launch on Monday. As expected, early reports of the book have found a number of substantial, interesting quotes and anecdotes within. As it is likely that more stories related to content within the book will be forthcoming over the next several days, we are creating this story as a catch-all for information from the book, and will update it as appropriate when new information emerges.
According to The Associated Press, which purchased a copy of the book yesterday, Jobs considered Google’s copying of iPhone features for its Android OS to be equal to “grand theft.” “I will spend my last dying breath if I need to, and I will spend every penny of Apple’s $40 billion in the bank, to right this wrong,” Jobs said. “I’m going to destroy Android, because it’s a stolen product. I’m willing to go thermonuclear war on this.” He also told then Google CEO Eric Schmidt in a subsequent meeting, “I don’t want your money. If you offer me $5 billion, I won’t want it. I’ve got plenty of money. I want you to stop using our ideas in Android, that’s all I want.”
The same report notes that Jobs called Apple’s senior vice president of industrial design Jonathan Ive his “spiritual partner” at Apple, and told Isaacson that Ive had “more operation power” at Apple than anyone besides Jobs himself, and that no one in the company can tell him what to do, which, Jobs says, is “the way I set it up.”
The New York Times, which also obtained a copy of the book ahead of its release, reports that Jobs spent the first months after he was diagnosed with cancer trying fruit juices, acupuncture, herbal remedies, and other treatments in an effort to avoid surgery, a decision that infuriated family and friends. “The big thing was that he really was not ready to open his body,” Jobs’ wife Laurene Powell said. “It’s hard to push someone to do that.” When Jobs did decide on medical treatment, he did so with his trademark passion, studying and deciding on each treatment, and becoming one of only 20 people in the world to have all the genes of his cancer tumor and his normal DNA sequenced—at a price of $100,000—so as to allow doctors to tailor and target the drugs he was prescribed. Jobs later told Isaacson that he would either be one of the first “to outrun a cancer like this” or be among the last “to die from it.”
The Huffington Post also obtained a copy of the book, and recounts Jobs’ interactions with current President of the United States Barack Obama. “You’re headed for a one-term presidency,” he told Obama at the start of a meeting between the two men in fall 2010. Jobs told Obama that the administration needed to be more business-friendly, citing “regulations and unnecessary costs” which make it more difficult to do business in the U.S. as opposed to foreign countries such as China. Jobs later offered to help create Obama’s political ads for his 2012 reelection campaign, telling Isaacson that he wanted to do for Obama what the “morning in America” advertisements had done for former President Ronald Reagan during his reelection campaign of 1984.
Jobs is also said to have had lingering doubts about his contemporary Bill Gates. While Gates described Jobs as “fundamentally odd” and “weirdly flawed as a human being,” Jobs said that Gates would be “a broader guy if he had dropped acid once or gone off to an ashram when he was younger,” adding that “Bill is basically unimaginative and has never invented anything, which is why I think he’s more comfortable now in philanthropy than technology. He just shamelessly ripped off other people’s ideas.”
Update: According to The Washington Post, which reviewed the biography, Steve Jobs suggested to Isaacson that he had been working on an Apple-branded television set. “He very much wanted to do for television sets what he had done for computers, music players, and phones: make them simple and elegant,” Isaacson wrote in the book. “‘I’d like to create an integrated television set that is completely easy to use,’ he told me. ‘It would be seamlessly synced with all of your devices and with iCloud.’ No longer would users have to fiddle with complex remotes for DVD players and cable channels. ‘It will have the simplest user interface you could imagine. I finally cracked it.’” While it is unclear whether such a device would be dependent on a currently unannounced streaming service or current a la carte programming as offered on iTunes, rumors of such a set have persisted for years, and would be an obvious extension of Apple’s current Apple TV set-top box.
We will update this story with further details as they become available.
Several unions and lobbying groups plan to use the iPhone 5 launch to publicize a union contract dispute with Verizon Wireless. The Communications Workers of America, International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers and the AFL-CIO are being joined by MoveOn.org, US Action, and Jobs with Justice to formally announce the campaign on Monday. Dubbed “iWon’t,” the campaign will ask Americans to delay upgrading to the iPhone 5 on Verizon Wireless until the company agrees to a fair contract with its workers. The group plans to conduct online and grass roots outreach, advertising, and leafleting at hundreds of Verizon Wireless stores starting on Tuesday, October 4th, which it believes—probably incorrectly—will be the launch date of the iPhone 5.
This coalition also aims to expose what it refers to as the “Verizon Tax Loophole,” describing the methods that Verizon is using to avoid paying federal corporate income taxes, and plans to lobby the government to force companies such as Verizon to pay their fair share in federal taxes while respecting workers’ rights. The contract dispute reportedly involved 45,000 Verizon and Verizon Wireless workers, who seek to protect their health care coverage and employee benefits.
Brookstone has released the Rover App-Controlled Spy Tank for iOS devices. Controlled wirelessly from an iPhone, iPod touch or iPad using a free universal app, the Rover can explore within a range of to 200 feet streaming live video and sound back to the device. An infrared night vision mode is also available to allow users to navigate Rover in the dark. Users can control the Rover from the app using either on-screen directional arrows or using the accelerometer-based G-Drive mode and can capture still photos from the camera. The Rover Spy Tank runs on 6 included AA batteries and is available from Brookstone for $150.
Directly targeting Apple’s growing iPad ecosystem with even lower-priced alternatives, Amazon today launched a series of three completely new Kindle devices with prices ranging from $79 to $199. The most basic Kindle e-reader will now sell for $79, a drop from the company’s prior $114 price tag for its lowest-end unit, relying on modest screen saver-style ad support and a streamlined design to reduce the price tag. Amazon also announced a new $99 Kindle touch e-reader that employs an IR touch system in place of a physical keyboard, as well as a redesigned user interface that involves taps in place of buttons. The new unit is also reportedly slimmer, smaller and lighter than the current Kindle models. A 3G-enabled model will also be available for $149 with free global roaming.
Amazon also revealed the anticipated Kindle Fire Android-based tablet today at a price of $199. Designed to provide capabilities beyond those of traditional Kindle devices, Kindle Fire uses a custom version of the Android OS on a 7-inch IPS panel, featuring a dual-core CPU, Wi-Fi and a 14.6 ounce chassis. Although it lacks an embedded camera and microphone, or 3G connectivity, Kindle Fire is designed to be a simple touch-based video, music, book, and app-ready device leveraging all of Amazon’s digital stores and services. The device includes a 30-day trial of Amazon Prime, and provides access to the Amazon Appstore, Kindle Books, Amazon Cloud Storage, and introduces WhiperSync bookmarking for movies and TV shows. Amazon chief Jeff Bezos used the introduction of Kindle Fire to jab at the iPad’s need for backups—wired or wireless—by noting that all of Kindle Fire’s media content will be stored in the cloud and re-obtainable as needed. The new Kindles will continue Amazon’s tradition of ultra-simple setup, arriving pre-customized to the recipient’s Amazon account so that previously-purchased content is ready to go right away.
Business Insider reports that Facebook engineer Jeff Verkoeyen, the developer responsible for building the company’s iPad application has left Facebook to take a job at Google. In a post on his blog earlier today, Verkoeyen expressed frustration that Facebook has delayed the release of the iPad app despite the fact that it has been ready to be released for several months. Verkoeyen noted that he was the lead engineer on the Facebook iPad app back in January and put a great deal of time into the app, which was considered “feature-complete’ in May. Despite this, Facebook reportedly kept repeatedly delaying the release, leading Verkoeyen to believe that at this point the app “may never be released.” Verkoeyen has since updated his blog post to remove details about the iPad application and spoke with Business Insider to clarify that the frustration was his “personally” and was not a “reflection on Facebook as a company.”
In June the New York Times reported that Facebook was planning to launch a native iPad app in the “coming weeks” citing people briefed on Facebook’s plans, and native iPad support was later discovered in a July update to the iPhone and iPod touch application. These reports led many to speculate that Facebook was simply waiting to release an iPad app during the company’s f8 developer conference last week, however no mention was made of the iOS platform at all during the keynote presentation, which focused primarily on major new social features for the web.
CableJive has introduced its new dockBoss+, a unique accessory that aims to expand the compatibility of most iPod/iPhone/iPad docking audio systems. The dockBoss+ connects to the speaker’s dock using a female connector, which is attached to a single cable that splits into separate 3.5mm headphone plug and micro USB connectors, allowing the system to receive audio from and send power to a wide range of devices, including Android phones and non-Apple audio players. As noted in the description, the accessory does not provide integration features like device control or playlists, leaving it up to the device’s owner to come up with a remote control solution. CableJive’s dockBoss+ USB and audio adapter cable for docking audio systems is available for order now for $30 and is expected to ship September 28.
Amazon has launched a new service allowing students to save money by renting textbooks in electronic form. Kindle Textbook Rental allows students to choose from a catalog of tens of thousands of textbooks for their 2011 school year from leading publishers such as John Wiley & Sons, Elsevier and Taylor & Francis and rent them as e-books for only the period of time required for their course work. Users can customize rental periods to any length between 30 and 360 days with pricing based on the rental period, offering pricing up to 80% off the list price of the print versions of the same text books. Existing rentals can be easily extended in increments as small as one day simply by paying for the extra days, and users can re-extend their rental as often as necessary or simply pay to convert the rental to a purchased book.
Kindle Textbook Rental uses a “Rent Once, Read Everywhere” model allowing users to access any of their rented textbooks on any Kindle-supported device, including the iPad, iPhone and iPod touch or on a PC or Mac or other supported smartphone platforms. Amazon has also enhanced its Whispersync technology to preserve notes, annotations and highlighted content in rental textbooks with a user’s Amazon account indefinitely so that if they subsequently rent the same textbook again in the future, all of the annotations will appear as the user left them. The Amazon Kindle app is available from the App Store as a free download. More information on the Kindle Textbook Rental service can be found at http://www.amazon.com/kindletextbooks.
Verizon Wireless has confirmed that its LTE phones will not “be compatible on other LTE networks in the U.S” due to frequency differences, according to a PCMag report. The article notes that although the new 4G LTE system being implemented by Verizon, MetroPCS and AT&T uses a SIM card system similar to GSM, carriers such as Verizon may be building phones to run only on their own wireless frequencies, preventing their devices from being used on competing networks, even for roaming where Verizon-specific LTE coverage may be unavailable.
Although both Verizon and AT&T use the 700MHz LTE band, their networks use different frequencies within that spectrum with very little overlap. Other U.S. carriers use 1700MHz and 1500MHz frequencies, while even more LTE bands are available to international carriers, suggesting that it may also be challenging to roam internationally with LTE devices. It is unclear at this point what plans other carriers such as AT&T have with regard to the frequencies used by their LTE phones, and whether Apple will be able to offer universal LTE world phones that avoid the need for multiple versions.
To commemorate the third anniversary of the App Store, Pangea Software has announced that it is making all of its iOS games available for free for a one-day event. Today, July 11th from 8:00 AM to 8:00 PM CST every Pangea title is available from the App Store as a free download, after which they will go on sale for just $1 per app. Pangea’s iOS games include are normally priced at $3-4 each and include Enigmo, Enigmo 2, Enigmo Deluxe, Billy Frontier, Bugdom 2, Cro-Mag Rally, Antimatter, Warheads, Nanosaur 2, Otto Matic and Quarters.
Pangea Software was among the first game companies on the App Store when it debuted three years ago and has experienced great success in developing iPhone apps with over $7 million in sales since 2008. “iOS and the App Store are the most important things to come along in the video game industry in a generation,” said Brian Greenstone, President of Pangea Software, “We’ve been very fortunate to have been a part of this, so to say ‘Thank You’ to all of our awesome customers we’re hosting the biggest giveaway the App Store has ever seen.” The company also reports that it is actively working on major updates to many of its games for iOS 5, with significant updates in store for its multiplayer networked games Nanosaur 2 and Cro-Mag Rally.
TechCrunch reports that PopCap Games, makers of hit iOS titles such as Peggle and Plants vs Zombies is currently in talks to be acquired for a price of over $1 billion. Initial reports speculated on Zynga, Electronic Arts or an Asian company being possible buyers, however TechCrunch has now received information from two sources that the buyer is Electronic Arts. If accurate, the $1 billion price of the deal would make this one of EA’s largest acquisitions to date, although the report suggests that this may be an effort by EA to depart from its more hardcore games and solidify its position as a casual gaming powerhouse. EA has been making major acquisitions in the iOS and general mobile gaming space over the past year buying publisher Chillingo last fall and most recently acquiring FireMint just last month.
Facebook is planning to launch its own standalone photo-sharing app for iOS devices, according to a new report. Citing roughly 50MB of images and documents related to the app, TechCrunch reports that the app—internally referred to as “Hovertown” or “WithPeople”—is built on top of Facebook’s existing social network, but functions more like standalone photo-sharing apps and services such as Path, Instagram, and Color. TechCrunch claims that it will be posting more on the app soon; we will update this story when/if any new information is available.