Microsoft might be going after Google in a big way. According to The Verge, sources familiar with Microsoft’s plans say that the company’s OS VP Terry Myerson is considering a move to make Windows Phone and Windows RT free.
This shift would be a pretty direct shot against Google, which offers its Android OS for free. Microsoft currently licenses the software to device makers, although Nokia’s Windows Phone devices make up over 80 percent of the market share for Windows Phone. Microsoft’s acquisition of Nokia’s mobile hardware division will remove this chunk of licensing revenue.
By offering its platforms for free, Microsoft would likely get more manufacturers interested in using the software, which in turn could attract more developer interest. And by getting more Windows-powered devices out there, it could help slow the growth of Android.
To recoup money lost on licensing fees, Microsoft would attempt to gain revenue elsewhere. The Verge suggests that ads in Windows 8 apps and Microsoft’s built-in Bing search help offset whatever is lost.
Of course, Microsoft still makes plenty of money by licensing Windows 8, and that doesn’t appear to be changing anytime soon. It also makes a great deal of money on Android device royalties, to the tune of a reported $2 billion per year.
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It’s time to rethink what a watch can be. As the most successful KickStarter campaign to date, the Pebble smartwatch extends control of your iOS or Android smartphone while giving you options to customize with apps for an active lifestyle. Beginning September 27, AT&T customers can purchase the Pebble for $150 at att.com and in select retail stores with broader availability expected in October.
The Pebble smartwatch is a customizable, Bluetooth enabled smartwatch that wirelessly connects to your smartphone. Call alerts, emails, and text notifications all appear on the Pebble as they arrive to your phone. No need to pull out your smartphone to see who is trying to get your attention. Perfect for runners, cyclists, golfers or anyone with a busy or active lifestyle, the e-paper display makes the watch incredibly easy to read whether indoors or outside and it’s water resistant to boot. Users can also download applications onto their Pebble from a host of third party developers.
“As the exclusive carrier for the hot new Pebble smartwatch, this innovative device adds to AT&T’s extensive lineup of industry leading accessories for today’s connected world,” said Michael Cowan, Director, Accessory Portfolio, AT&T Mobility. “This smartwatch is fun, practical, and easy to use. It is simple to see why people have been clamoring to get their hands on it.”
● Press a button to change the watchface to fit your personal style. Download new watchfaces and applications, or design your own through existing third party sites.
● Great line-up of pre-loaded and downloadable apps perfect for runners, cyclists, golfers or those who are just busy.
● Music is only a click away. Play, pause, or skip tracks on your phone with simple controls on Pebble. Glance down at your watch to see the artist and the track name that is playing without missing a beat.
● Custom notifications keep you informed without being a distraction. Incoming caller ID, calendar alerts, social media messages, weather alerts and more.
● Rechargeable battery can last up to seven days.
● Water resistant rated 5ATM.
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Google and Motorola have been ordered to provide Apple with data about the development of the Android operating system by a U.S. judge, reports Bloomberg.
The two companies are also ordered to provide Apple with information about the pending acquisition of Motorola by Google.
U.S. Circuit Judge Richard A. Posner in Chicago made the ruling as part of a patent lawsuit filed in 2010 by Apple against Motorola.
“Motorola shall be expected to obtain full and immediate compliance by Google with Apple’s liability discovery demands,” the judge said
Motorola argued that “Google’s employees and documents are not within the ‘possession, custody, or control’ of Motorola, and Motorola cannot force Google to produce documents or witnesses over Google’s objections.” However, Apple maintained that “the Android/Motorola acquisition discovery is highly relevant to Apple’s claims and defenses.”
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NPR is famous for beg-a-thons, wherein they lament the high cost of production and distribution and, oh yeah, solicit funds. It’s more pronounced now that they have started podcasting. More popular podcasts (particularly those who are making a go at doing it for a living) also have the same complaints.
I am slowly being converted to the opinion that the bandwidth complaint is a fundraising ploy. If they were really concerned about the cost of bandwidth they would attempt to minimize the use of bandwidth. But the bandwidth Jeremiahs are the same folks who apparently take no care to reduce their own footprint, putting out excessively, needlessly large audiofiles. YES it’s their podcast and their content and they can put it out however they wish, but if you want to beg for donations to cover your costs then I will expect you to attempt to minimize your costs.
Consider these ideas for reducing bandwidth; they take a bit of up-front scripting to make it work programatically, then it just motors along with zero added effort from the podcaster:
- Make a bittorrent feed available. Your listeners will happily donate bandwidth to keep your content flowing.
- Publish two podcast feeds: a feed with all the bells/whistles and a low-bandwidth feed.
- use a lower sampling rate. 44.1 is CD quality. Does your spoken word podcast require better-than-CD sampling? For our purposes, the Nyquist Rate predicts sampling should be 2x the highest audio frequency. Since the human ear hears roughly 20-20,000Hz, this explains the 44.1k sampling rate of CDs. If your podcast does not contain high frequencies at the extremes of human hearing then it does not need a high samping rate.
- use Variable Bit Rate (VBR) rather than Constant Bit Rate (CBR). This ensures no frame uses excessive bitrate to encode the audio.
- if you must use CBR, use a lower bitrate.
- if your podcast is mono, then encode as mono rather than stereo. Joint stereo reduced some of the waste when distributing mono in stereo encodes, but it’s still a waste.
- Consider voice presets in your favorite encoder. See the lame voice preset result below. This single change would probably make the biggest difference in podcasting bandwidth for most content producers.
- Consider other formats. If you insist on high bitrates, .ogg can shave a bit off the filesize (see below). If are really serious, use a speech-specific format like speex.
A specific example
Here’s the last file I downloaded from the feed of FreedomainRadio, your friendly neighborhood anarcho-capitalist (recommended, btw):
$ file FDR_2096_Sunday_Show_19_Feb_2012.mp3 FDR_2096_Sunday_Show_19_Feb_2012.mp3: Audio file with ID3 version 2.3.0, contains: MPEG ADTS, layer III, v1, 128 kbps, 48 kHz, Monaural
100576 Feb 21 01:14 fdrtest-lamevbr-noresample.mp3 97379 Feb 21 01:28 fdrtest.lamevbr-resample.mp3 53812 Feb 21 00:48 fdrtest-lame-voice-preset.mp3
68536 Feb 21 01:08 fdrtest.ogg
Changing nothing in the original 48kHz .wav, encoding with ogg vorbis gives us a 68.54MB file, for a 32.2% savings. Not bad, though one might lose some windoze/mac listeners. But as a second feed… Note that the .ogg advantage will decrease on lower quality sounds files. Speex is what you use for those.
50746 fdrtest.48k-original-sample.speex 14498 fdrtest.08k.speex 26394 fdrtest.16k.speex 33830 fdrtest.32k.speex
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One step along that path attempted to employ Microsoft’s Windows Mobile 6.1 platform. At Mobile World Conference in early 2008, Samsung introduced its flagship Omni and Sony Ericsson unveiled its XPERIA X1, with both companies betting that WiMo could help them catch up to the iPhone experience Apple had introduced. They lost the bet.
In late 2008, RIM introduced its touchscreen BlackBerry Storm, which its fans assumed would be like a black iPhone with more serious Enterprise credentials. What they really got was a terrible phone that wasn’t ready for prime time, oddly lacking support for even basic features such as WiFi. The phone signaled the beginning of the end for RIM, which saw its dominant position among Verizon smartphones rapidly whither away in favor of Android in 2010, and then the iPhone itself last year.
Around the same time, Google and HTC collaborated to deliver the T Mobile G1, a keyboard-based phone patterned after the Danger Sidekick. The phone was rushed to market with such haste that it could not be officially supported even by the next 2.0 version of Android released a year later.
That “lack of foresight in design” trend would continue for Android, as well as with other mobile platforms that systematically abandoned new phones as quickly as they could deliver new updates. At the same time, Android shifted direction dramatically in 2009 to focus on essentially producing iPhone clones.
At CES in early 2009, attention dramatically shifted to the Palm Pre, which claimed that it would best Apple’s second generation iPhone 3G and take back smartphone sales for Palm and its new webOS. Instead, just as it launched in June Apple released the iPhone 3GS, a model Apple still sells (and supports in the latest iOS 5). Palm barely remained alive, barely finished its webOS, and after being bought up by HP, even its remaining group didn’t survive long enough to see the iPhone’s fifth birthday.
iPhone 3GS: iPhone OS 3.0
Apple’s third iPhone didn’t dramatically change its form factor, but did enhance its internal components, adding a faster ARM Cortex-A8 processor and PowerVR SGX 535 graphics core, 256MB of RAM, a more competent 3 megapixel camera with video recording features, a digital compass and improved 7.2 Mbps HSDPA 3G wireless features.
In software, iPhone OS 3.0 added support for three features being held out at the time as conspicuous omissions: copy/paste, MMS picture/data messaging, and support for tethering. Apple made the software available to all iPhone users, but for the first time, it became obvious that Apple could deliver a software solutions that mobile carriers might not immediately be able to support. AT&T didn’t support MMS for months, and it took nearly a year before the carrier enabled support for data tethering from iPhones, even though both features had been widely supported on the carrier’s network for other phones.
While Apple was enjoying a network effect of snowballing sales, the flip side was that so many people were buying iPhones that it was changing the market itself; AT&T struggled to keep up with the iPhone’s advancement, because adding a new feature on the iPhone meant supporting it across a growing army of millions of iPhone users.
Apple also introduced an array of accessibility features for the iPhone 3GS, as well as introducing system wide Spotlight search (a key feature promoted by Palm’s webOS), a new push notifications system for third party developers that borrowed the same functionality and technology supporting Apple’s own MobileMe push messaging features introduced the prior year, the CalDAV calendaring standard and 1,000 new APIs for developers.
iPhone competitors: 2009 – 2010
Just after Palm introduced its new webOS Pre, Microsoft began teasing Windows Mobile 6.5, presenting it as a credible platform with a new app launcher (creatively rethinking Apple’s square grid of icons and replacing it with a fresh, staggered honeycomb arrangement!) and a rival new app Skymarket just like the iPhone’s.
iPhone 4S: iOS 5.0
For its its fifth year of iPhone, Apple launched iPhone 4S, an improved version of the iPhone 4’s overall design with a much faster A5 processor borrowed from the iPad, improvements to its camera, 14.4Mbps HSDPA and new support for 1080p HDMI or VGA output or 720p wireless AirPlay.
In software, Apple added a variety of features including iMessage for automatically sending text and multimedia messages via WiFi, Newsstand for delivering subscription content, a new Notification Center for managing local and remote push alerts, and support for Apple’s new iCloud services, as well as PC Free setup and configuration.
Exclusive to iPhone 4S is Apple’s new Siri voice assistant, which adds intelligent responses to spoken requests as a secondary natural user interface, next to the iPhone’s pioneering multitouch interface. Siri can search the web and translate voice to text, but more importantly serves as a way to interact with calendar items, messages, reminders and notes.
The future of iPhone competitors: 2011 – 2012
After a year on the market, Microsoft has found it nearly impossible to find interest for WP7 among consumers. At the beginning of 2011, Nokia announced that it would be dumping its own Meego and Symbian platforms to focus on a new joint venture with Microsoft, although it noted that the fruits of its efforts wouldn’t be ready for nearly another year. Microsoft also has parallel efforts in place to launch Windows 8 as a viable PC and tablet platform, which is also a year away.
RIM is now in a similar predicament to where Microsoft was a year ago, facing delays in getting its new PlayBook operating system to work on its smartphones, and reportedly eying plans to license the software to third parties for production.
After largely wasting 2011 on failed tablet-oriented efforts with Honeycomb, Google has delivered Android 4.0 as its unified smartphone/tablet version of its 2011 efforts, but it is not making it widely available in a way most existing Android users can download and install. Instead, it’s leaving it up to manufacturers and carriers to do the work needed to make its raw code work on existing devices, an expensive effort few are excited about undertaking. Meanwhile, Amazon has derailed Google’s tablet aspirations with the Kindle Fire, which like the Barnes & Noble Nook, uses a year old version of Android 2.3 to deliver a customized, incompatible, closed tablet platform.
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Google purchased another round of patents from IBM in the last week of 2011, adding 217 filings as the search giant looks to strengthen its existing IP portfolio to help protect itself in an increasingly litigious tech industry.
A report on Tuesday revealed that the United States Patent and Trademark Office officially recorded Google’s acquisition of 188 granted patents and 29 published pending applications from IBM in its patent assignment database on Dec. 30, 2011, according to blog SEO by the Sea.
The patents, which were effectively assigned to Google on Dec. 28, 2011, cover a variety of topics pertinent to the company’s internet business including blade servers, server load balancing, email administration and network performance.
Also found in the batch of intellectual property are patents useful to Google’s Android smartphone platform, like portable OS updating, transferring of web applications between devices, voice based keyword searching and a computer phone patent.
The keyword searching patent is of particular interest as Apple’s Siri digital assistant is seen as a key feature of the company’s iPhone 4S, with at least one market analyst saying that it was one of the main drivers of November sales for the new handset. Google is rumored to be working on a Siri competitor for its Android OS, naming the project “Majel” after Star Trek’s on-board computer.
Google has been on an IBM patent buying spree over the last year, with a July 2011 acquisition of 1,030 filings being followed by purchases of 1,022 filings and 41 filings in August and September, respectively.
The financials of the patent buy has yet to be revealed, and both Google and IBM don’t normally disclose the details of such transactions
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The annual Consumer Electronics Show begins in Las Vegas this weekend. It’s an annual festival of new gadgets, gaudy exhibition booths, PR spin, and long taxi lines that (supposedly) sets the pace for the coming year in consumer technology. I’ll be there for Technology Review, but can already take a guess at five things that I’ll find there.
Tablets, tablets, tablets
On paper, CES 2011 should have been the launchpad for serious competitors to Apple’s iPad, coming eight months after that tablet launched. Tablets of all levels of polish and price duly appeared, yet none has made much of a mark. This year will bring more tablets, many running Google’s refreshed Android operating system, Ice Cream Sandwich. Some of them will apparently resemble this reference design from Intel, while Sony’s Tablet S has been awarded one of the CES 2012’s Innovation prizes. All that suggests that the new contenders will be more capable, and it would be difficult for this year’s crop of tablets to do worse than last year’s. However, Apple will likely launch a new and improved iPad within a few months.
Cars as gadgets
What’s under the hood is increasingly about computing power, not just engine power. Carmakers will have a larger presence than ever before at CES this year, and they’ll be talking about similar technology to those showing off tablets: machine vision, cloud computing, and wireless data. All those and more are being put to use for everything from security features to better in-car entertainment. Ford’s CEO Alan Mulally has given a CES keynote for the last three years, and this year so is Daimler chairman and Mercedes boss Dieter Zetsche. As an example of how these companies are thinking like tech firms, last year Ford showed me a system that uses cloud computing to learn where you go and predict your future travels. At CES Ford will be showing off more novel ideas, many built into its Evos concept car, shown above. Mercedes has been slower than most of its competitors when it comes to features like smart phone app integration and Internet-connected navigation. Zetsche’s keynote could mark the announcement of new technology and ideas that might change that.
3-D TV (again)
Over the last few years, it’s becoming a running joke that 3-D TV is a major theme of CES but a technology met with indifference by gadget buyers. This year is likely to be no exception, and once again the problem won’t lie with the TV makers but with the TV industry. The 3-D TV sets that I tried at CES last year provided impressive viewing, but anyone taking one home will find there’s hardly anything out there to watch with an extra dimension. TV manufacturers are already previewing their latest 3-D-capable products for this year’s CES, with LG, for example, set to unveil a huge 84 inch 3-D TV. I’ll certainly try it if I see it on the exhibition hall floor, but expect that as usual I’ll hear little about 3-D TV until CES rolls around again next year.
Microsoft bows out—with a bang?
It’s traditional that Microsoft provides one of the biggest keynote speeches of CES, but this year will be the company’s last. All the same, this year’s CES will be a big one for Microsoft. One reason is that the event will be crucial in establishing Microsoft’s Windows Phone 7 software as a legitimate competitor to Apple’s iOS and Google’s Android operating systems. Struggling Nokia threw in its lot with Microsoft last year and will be in Vegas, likely show off the Windows 7 phones that are the Finnish company’s only hope. Even more crucial to Microsoft’s future, the next major version of Windows—Windows 8—will also likely appear at CES. Despite the company promising a low-key final keynote, Windows 8 will surely get a mention on stage. Tablets running Windows 8 made by HP are rumored to be appearing on the exhibition floor, too. Microsoft won’t be leaving quietly.
Ultrabook is a term trademarked by Intel and is best understood as meaning “MacBook Air clone”; they’re very light laptops thinner than the width of a quarter. A few computer makers—including HP and Asus—have already launched their first ultrabooks, but CES 2012 will see a flood of them. Ultrabooks may sound like (and actually be) a gimmick to make laptops sound exciting, but they’re interesting because they will likely combine features from smart phones and tablets with those of traditional PCs. The ability to remain in standby for long periods and wake up instantly is one example. Future models—maybe those shown at CES—are set to have features like the ability to sync e-mails and other updates while in standby and touch-sensitive screens for tablet-style interaction.
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OK, now that 2012 is here, time for a few predictions.
Windows – We’re going to see Windows 8 unleashed this year, so there’s going to be a lot of excitement there. Personally, I’m not so sure how this new OS will be received by the masses. It’s adds some much-needed polish on top of Windows 7, but it also brings with it a whole heap of tablet/touch stuff that will be irrelevant to the majority of Windows users.
Windows Phone – Microsoft’s mobile platform has, overall, been well-received. Its usage share is tiny at present, but given that Nokia is kicking Symbian to the kerb, and RIM seems to be in a death-spiral, I wouldn’t be surprised to see Windows Phone being in, or at least close to, the #3 position in terms of smartphone handset sales by this time next year.
Xbox – Don’t expect anything exciting here in terms of hardware. We might see a revamped console, but it will essentially be a cheaper reworking of the current hardware. My guess is that Microsoft will continue to push the Xbox as an entertainment hub (TV, streaming, etc) as opposed to a dedicated gaming device.
iPhone – Will there be a new iPhone this year? More than likely, but beyond that I’ve no idea what the changes will be (other than more powerful hardware). My personal guess is that the new hardware will look different to the existing hardware, but I have nothing to base that on other than Apple likes to revamp the external appearance of a device every few years to prompt sales.
iPad – Expect new hardware. What? No idea, but I’m guessing that the improvements will be evolutionary rather than evolutionary. I don’t expect the iPad 3 to look much different to the iPad 2 but the hardware (CPU and graphics) will get a boost. I’m also expecting storage to be bumped to 128GB. I’m still not sold on the idea of a ‘retina display’ screen
iOS – No idea what new stuff we’ll see in iOS. Maybe more photo-based improvements, and possibly more social media integration (Facebook).
Apple TV – My prediction is that Apple WILL NOT release a TV during 2012. That’s all I’m going to say about that.
If you thought 2011 was a big year for Android, wait and see what 2012 brings. While Android certainly has issues that Google need to address, I expect this platform to go from strength to strength during 2012, especially on smartphones. As I’ve said before I won’t be surprised to see Android hit 1 million activations per day during 2012.
Windows 8 is still a ways off so OEMs are going to have to work hard to reinvigorate PC sales. I’m hearing all sorts of interesting whispers as to what’s on the way from the various OEMs during 2012, but to be honest none of it sounds all that exciting. Most of what I’ve come across feels the OEMs are trying to clone Apple’s success by cloning ideas …
As I said earlier, I’m not sure what effect Windows 8 will have on PC sales. My prediction here is that OEMs are going to have a hard time convincing customers that they need Windows 8’s touch-based improvements on a PC that’s kitted out with a keyboard and mouse.
2012 is going to be the year of the iPad. I don’t see Android changing that, and I don’t see Windows 8 tablets changing that.
Expect more and more lawsuits and legal exchanges between the big players. Android and iOS will continue to dominate, but old players such as Symbian and BlackBerry will be sidelined by Windows Phone.
My misses of 2011!
OK, your time to gloat at some of the predictions I made during 2011 that fell flat on their faces. Two stand out from the rest as being way off the mark!
- Mac malware – Yes, the Mac OS X platform was hit by a sizable malware attack, but within a few weeks it was gone. Panic over. While I still think that it’s a good idea for Mac users to have security software installed on their systems, the whole Mac Defender thing was blown out of all proportions by pundits wanting to point fingers at mac users and yell ‘I told you so!’
- Redesigned iPhone 5 – There might have lots of speculation and rumor that Apple was going to revamp the design of the new iPhone in 2011, and a case manufacturer was duped into making a ton of cases for a device that never appeared, but Apple didn’t change the look of the iPhone 4S. But hey, 51% of Hardware 2.0 readers also expected Apple to come out with something completely new too!
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A new customer satisfaction survey has again placed Apple as the top computers and electronics retailer with the second-highest score overall, behind only online retail giant Amazon.
ForeSee Results published the results of the holiday edition of its U.S. E-Retail Satisfaction Index early Wednesday, as noted by TechCrunch. According to the survey, which polled more than 8,500 customers using the American Customer Satisfaction Index methodology, Amazon had the highest satisfaction rating with a score of 88 out of 100, while Apple tied for second overall with several other retailers, including Avon and JC Penney.
Among electronics retailers, Apple was first with a score of 83, followed by Newegg.com with 82 points. The Cupertino, Calif., company also took the top spot among electronics retailers last May.
A score of 80 is “generally considered the threshold for excellence,” the report noted. Amazon’s score of 88 was the highest score ever reported since ForeSee initiated the survey. The firm has conducted the survey twice a year for seven years now.
Apple and Amazon have overlapped as retailers for years, but 2011 saw increasing competition on Amazon’s part. The company opened up its Amazon Appstore, which sells applications for Google’s Android operating system, in March, in spite of a trademark lawsuit from Apple over the “App Store” name. In November, the retailer released its Kindle Fire tablet, which is believed to have quickly jumped to second place in the tablet market, behind only Apple’s iPad.
While the two companies were among the winners for customer satisfaction this holiday season, the report named Netflix as a loser in 2011. After a rocky few months following several missteps, Netflix, which had been neck-and-neck with Amazon in years past, saw a sharp drop in customer satisfaction, losing 7 points to receive a score of 79.
The company upset customers earlier this year by increasing prices for physical DVD rentals. Subscriber backlash prompted Netflix to spin off its DVD-by-mail service. However, a second wave of customer dissatisfaction caused Netflix to cancel the spinoff.
But, Netflix’s losses were a rare exception this year, as, customers were, overall, one point more satisfied in 2011 than last year, when the average score was 78. This year’s rating matched the record high of 79 set in 2009.
According to the firm, customer satisfaction plays a strong part in the long-term prospects of online retailers. Highly satisfied shoppers reported being 64 percent more likely to consider a retailer again when compared to shoppers who were dissatisfied with a website. Satisfied consumers were more likely to return to the retailer’s site, recommend it and stay loyal to the brand.
Satisfaction also appears to have a direct effect on a retailer’s revenues. On average, a one-point change in satisfaction of a website resulted in a 14 percent change in online revenue.
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OnLive is a cloud based game streaming service: once you launch a
game, all the heavy processing and rendering is handled by OnLive’s powerful
servers which then stream the video to your device using an internet connection.
Using their controller or on-screen touch controls, you can interact with the
game. These interactions are sent back to OnLive’s servers which process them
and then send you back the result in a matter of milliseconds. For the best
performance, you will, of course, need a fast broadband connection. Still, if
you’ve got a less-than-stellar connection, streaming quality is automatically
adjusted to ensure maximum performance.
Because of the way it is designed, you can play some the latest and greatest
Xbox 360 and PlayStation 3 games on any computer (yes, even if it is a
Windows-based Pentium 4 PC with 1GB of RAM) which can connect to one of their
OnLive devices or, starting from tomorrow, on the iPad 2 and select Android smartphones and tablets.
The company today announced their app for iPad and Android smartphones/tablets which lets
you play games like L.A. Noire, Batman: Arkham City and the latest Assassin’s
Creed on your mobile device. The app itself is free, but if you’re on the iPad,
you have to purchase the games (which are cheaper than what they usually cost on
PS3/X360) through a computer. Once you have a library of games to play with, you
just launch it and play using either on-screen touch controls (not recommended)
or with a $49.99 OnLive wireless controller. They even have full demos available
for most titles, so you can get started right now!
The iPad app is scheduled for a release sometime tomorrow,
but the Android app can be downloaded right now.
You may also like to check out:
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