MSFT to Apple: Yes, your phone is better

As a number of people have already noted, Microsoft’s release of Seadragon for the iPhone — an image-viewing app based on the deep-zoom technology behind the software giant’s Photosynth project — doesn’t just seem like an admission that the iPhone is better than any other mobile out there: Microsoft product manager Alex Daley comes right out and says as much in an interview with Todd Bishop of the blog Tech Flash:

“The iPhone is the most widely distributed phone with a (graphics processing unit),” Daley explained. “Most phones out today don’t have accelerated graphics in them The iPhone does and so it enabled us to do something that has been previously difficult to do. I couldn’t just pick up a Blackberry or a Nokia off the shelf and build Seadragon for it.”

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Motorola: First-sale doctrine — what’s that?

I would take this one with a large grain — perhaps even a boulder — of salt, but according to a report in The Register, wireless-handset maker Motorola is planning to get buyers of its new, ultra-expensive Aura handset to sign something saying they won’t sell the device on eBay. The report (from the usual unnamed source) says that buyers would be required to sell the handsets back to Motorola if they didn’t want them any more. This has drawn scoffs from a number of commenters at Gizmodo and elsewhere, and rightly so, since such a policy would almost certainly be a breach of the so-called “first-sale doctrine” (in the United States, at least).

In a nutshell, the first-sale doctrine — which was originally created to cover patented items, but has since been extended to cover copyrighted material as well, such as records and CDs — prevents a patent-holder or manufacturer from extending their control over an object or piece of content beyond the first sale of that object or content. In other words, “the first unrestricted sale of a patented item exhausts the patentee’s control over that particular item.” This is to allow buyers of CDs and other products to sell them through second-hand stores, or to loan them to friends.

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Google phone: Will open win over closed?

There are lots of reviews of the Google phone from HTC and T-Mobile flying around, including one from Walt Mossberg of the Journal that calls the G1 a “worthy competitor” for Apple’s iPhone, and one from David Pogue at the New York Times, who correctly points out that it isn’t really *the* Google phone. It’s just one of what will presumably be many Google phones, with different features, from different manufacturers. Don’t like the side-flipping keyboard or the fact that the tilt sensor doesn’t auto-rotate the display? Maybe the next Google phone will be more to your liking.

This is already a significantly different approach to the one Apple has taken, and in many ways the blogosphere’s typical (and natural) focus on the specifics of the actual G1 device itself tends to obscure the larger picture of what Google is doing. In almost every way, the Google phone approach is open, while the Apple approach is the same as it has always been: either completely closed or very strictly controlled. That kind of focus, of course, arguably makes Apple products more appealing because the hardware, software and services are tightly integrated.

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Should I get an iPhone or an Android?

So the Wall Street Journal says that the long-awaited, much-ballyhooed Google Phone is coming soon, and TechRadar says that Google execs demonstrated a working prototype at a developer event recently in London. Meanwhile, some of the bloom has come off the iPhone rose in the past little while (for some people at least), with much discussion of how Apple maintains an iron fist when it comes to which apps are allowed on the device. So if given the choice between the two — which I admit is pretty hypothetical at the moment — which one should I buy?

The iPhone is tres cool, no question about that. It looks great, it feels great, and (for the most part) it works great. The size of the screen and the auto-rotation feature, not to mention the multi-touch interface, makes Web browsing and photo viewing almost as appealing as on a desktop, and puts it miles ahead of any other mobile device so far. Apps like Shazam — which identifies the music you’re listening to on the radio or your stereo, or pretty much anywhere in the immediate vicinity of your phone — make the phone a pleasure to use. Unfortunately, Apple won’t let iPhone users install certain apps, even when they sound really useful.

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Spreed News tries to redefine reading

A Toronto company called Spreed Inc. launched its mobile newsreader for the Apple iPhone today, and if you’re interested in how written content gets consumed on a mobile device I encourage you to take a look. Spreed co-founder Anthony Novac and head of technology Suhail Mirza gave me a demo of the software recently, and I tried out an early version of the software on an iPhone in the company’s downtown office, and I have to say (and I told Anthony this) that I’m not convinced Spreed is going to be the right solution for everyone. That said, it is an interesting approach, and the mobile app is just the first in what the company hopes will be a series of services for mobile and desktop.

Anthony is a former co-founder and CEO of several online gambling companies, including Trident Gaming and 1x1inc, which developed a peer-to-peer gambling service called Betbug (his partner in that venture, John O’Malia, is now managing director of industry leader Partygaming). Spreed, however, evolved from discussions that Novac had with a childhood friend who taught himself how to speed-read, and along the way taught Anthony — who is dyslexic — how to read faster too. Based on research into reading and comprehension, Spreed developed a kind of “flashcard” approach to reading on a mobile device, with groups of words flashed on the screen in discrete bunches.

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