Facebook shows it knows the power of apps over hardware
5th Apr 2013 | 11:56
Plus the latest on Windows 8.1
Technology is like fashion: by the time an exciting new range hits the shops, the industry's eyes are already on the next big thing. This week, the next big things are coming from the biggest names in the business.
If you were expecting this week's big story to be the Facebook phone, you'd be right, sort of: while the incoming HTC First Facebook phone isn't on a par with the HTC One or the Samsung Galaxy S4, what's really interesting isn't the hardware but the software - Facebook Home.
By making a Facebook-flavoured interface for Android, Mark Zuckerberg's mob isn't limited to just one phone. That means all kinds of Android phones could become Facebook phones, improving Facebook user engagement and driving Google crazy. Facebook knows its own limitations - and the power of an app.
In with the Blue
Facebook isn't the only tech giant showing off new software. Microsoft's been at it too: Windows Blue is getting a duller name (Windows 8.1) and a host of new features.
And Apple is joining in as well. iOS 7 is running behind schedule, it seems, and engineers are being pulled off other projects to get it shipshape in time for this year's WWDC. Despite early reports of "pretty conservative" changes, reports now suggest that Jonathan Ive is already putting his stamp on the iOS interface and that the changes will make iOS 7 look much fresher.
Apple's also involved in Webkit, the open source browser rendering engine spun off from KHTML, and this week we discovered that its Webkit partner Google doesn't want to play any more. As Matt Swider reports, "Google is kissing Webkit goodbye, announcing it will fork the widely used layout engine that renders web pages for its Chrome browser, and instead develop a new rendering engine, Blink." The move is apparently due to Google's frustration that Webkit changes weren't happening quickly enough.
Guess who else is getting into browsers? That's right: Samsung. In a move that raises many more questions than it answers, Mozilla and Samsung have announced that they're collaborating on a new browser engine. As Michelle Fitzimmons reports, it's interesting because "Mozilla is working on its own mobile Firefox OS, while Samsung has been the standard-bearer - or at least most successful manufacturer - developing on Android. And of course there's Tizen, an open source operating system Sammy has its fingers in." It'll be interesting "to see how the various pairings Samsung finds itself in end up playing out".
Ring of untruth?
We know what you're thinking. "Surely there must be some new and frankly unlikely Apple rumours this week?" - and you're right, because the latest Apple TV speculation says that you'll control the device with a magic ring. It'll be a motion controller, and it will work just like a normal finger except something something magic ring. In a world of Kinect and Leap Motion interfaces, having to wear magic electronic jewellery to control a TV sounds like a backwards step to us. To say we're sceptical would be an understatement.
That's not the only Apple rumour. This week we also heard that the Apple iWatch - which doesn't officially exist - might have fingerprint scanning, just like the iPhone 5S, which doesn't officially exist. The reports may well be accurate, but it's worth noting that they're based on single, anonymous sources.
Some leaks are more credible, such as Gamespot's comments on the Xbox 720 - it's "compelling" and Microsoft is "doing some really cool stuff" - and the similarly named GameStop, who says that the PS4 will definitely be coming to Europe in 2013, not 2014 as previously reported.
But of course, this being the tech industry everybody's already looking for what's coming after that. So what's next in high-end gaming? According to Nvidia, it's phones. They'll be the new skinny jeans, mark our words.