All posts in First

SkyFire Nabs $1 Million in First Weekend

It was so hot, it sold out the App Store a few hours after launch. Such, apparently, is the craving for Flash on the iPhone, regardless of what Steve Jobs may think. But what are the numbers behind “selling out” when we’re just talking bits and bytes here?

The little browser that could — that is, could put Flash on your iPhone — had a great opening weekend. Not only did they move so many apps that the App Store “sold out” of them, but they also picked up some serious coin. While SkyFire wasn’t dishing the exact figures, they shared with MobileCrunch the broad specifics. “Well over 300,00 downloads” in that first weekend alone. Quick math shows three dollars per download gets you to 0,000. Then subtract Apple’s 30% take. And while gross may have been nearly a million, net shrinks down to a respectable 0,000+.

Plus on top of that, selling out the App Store nets you a ton of free publicity as tech sites who’ve been talking up your app’s capabilities suddenly have a novelty story on their hands. Fresh news cycle, fresh batch of publicity. A double win for SkyFire.

Now, it takes a LOT of server juice to make the conversion from Flash content to HTML 5 friendly, which we imagine is what crushed their servers, both demand for the app and demand for the process. We certainly hope the gang at SkyFire, after they’ve spent a bit of that bounty on champagne to hose each other down with, are plowing their profits back into increasing server rack capacity.

Because when they get around to releasing their iPad version, you know the exact same thing’s going to happen again…

Plants vs. Zombies Goes On Sale for the First Time Ever

Between celebrating Bejeweled’s ten year anniversary, the release of Peggle Nights, and all that Michael Jackson hoopla, we’ve been hearing quite a bit about PopCap. Well, now the usually quite game giant is pulling out all the stops. PopCap’s fastest selling iOS game, Plants vs. Zombies, has gone on sale for the first time since it was released in February. The reason? It’s Haloween!


Most iOS gamers will have downloaded Plants vs. Zombies and beat it several times by now, but anyone who hasn’t will certainly want to pick it up. If you’ve been living under a rock or just don’t keep up on your iOS gaming news, PvZ is a cheeky tower defense game with insanely colorful graphics in which you plant plants to fight off waves of zombies as they try and eat your brainz (sic).

PvZ help

There’s an iPhone and iPad version, with a select few features on each, so you should probably just get both versions. Both have had price drops of 50%; Plants vs. Zombies for iPhone is sitting pretty at .99 cents, and the HD version only costs .99. But hurry–Plants vs. Zombies bumps back up to its spooky full-price after Halloween.



First Look: 11.6-inch, 1.4GHz MacBook Air

The new MacBook Air instantly made friends with my 15-inch Core i7 MacBook Pro. Well, until they started to battle. (See the video below.)

We walked out of Apple’s “Back to the Mac” event today with a shiny new MacBook Air on loan from the mad scientists at Cupertino. In fact, I’m writing this on the new 11.6-inch, 1.4GHz Core 2 Duo MacBook Air right now.

What’s it like? So glad you asked.

For starters, it’s hott. As in gorgeous, not that it heats up your lap. (It really doesn’t.) The president of our company and the chief executive of our parent company happened to stroll by my desk a few minutes after I’d set up the Air, and both these titans of industry stopped dead in their tracks, and then spent the next couple of minutes passing the Air back and forth and marveling over its svelte beauty. Measuring 11.8 inches wide, 7.56 inches deep, and merely 0.68 inches high at its thickest point, it tapers down to a practically-invisible 0.11 inches at the thinnest point, down near the thumbscoop.

The screen measures 11.6 inches diagonally, but it’s a true 16:9 widescreen, a little shorter than the iPad’s 4:3, 9.7-inch diagonal screen when the iPad is in landscape mode. I wish Apple had followed the design precedence set by the current MacBooks, Cinema Displays, and the iPad by surrounding the MacBook Air’s screen with a glossy black bezel instead of the regular aluminum unibody bezel, but Apple most likely opted for a unibody with no extra parts stuck onto it to keep the Air thin and light as possible. The iPad weighs 1.5 pounds (Wi-Fi only; the Wi-Fi + 3G model is 1.6 pounds), and this 11.6-inch Air is only a little heavier, at 2.3 pounds.

The full-size keyboard is a pleasure to type on, although we already miss the backlit keys of the MacBook Pro. Apple positioned the internal stereo speakers directly underneath the Air’s keyboard, with no visible grill or perforation. An Apple rep explained that the sound comes up from below the keyboard through the tiny bits of space around each key. That’s a super-cool idea, although when we blasted some music through iTunes, it sounded a little on the tinny side. Still better than the last MacBook Air, though. The glass Multi-Touch trackpad is a little shorter than on the larger MacBooks — it’s 4.1 inches across by 2.5 inches high, for about 4.7 diagonal inches total. But it’s a breeze to use, with all the one-, two-, three-, and four-finger Multi-Touch gestures working like a dream.

The LED-backlit display is plenty bright, a high-res 1366×768 pixels natively, and visible from a wide angle. Apple put the MagSafe port, one USB 2.0 port, the audio in/out (Apple’s Earphones with Remote and Mic are supported), and the integrated mic on the left side of the Air, and the Mini DisplayPort and a second USB 2.0 port on the right side. Our 11.6-inch Air doesn’t have the SD card slot that’s on the 13.3-inch Air, but other than that the ports are the same. We were able to connect the Air to our new 27-inch Cinema Display, where it ran great in lid-closed mode at a maximum resolution of 2560×1440. But in mirrored-display mode, the 27-inch display could only show 1366×768 pixels, which made things look big and blurry. So stick to extended or lid-closed mode for the best experience.

The 27-inch Cinema Display’s three-headed cable has Mini DisplayPort and USB connectors that go in these ports, and a MagSafe power tip that stretches around to the left side of the Air. But it fits.

There’s no optical drive, so Apple included a tiny USB stick with your software on it in case you need to reinstall any included applications or the Mac OS itself. (Yes, this runs the full Mac OS, not some watered-down version or iOS hybrid.) You can also borrow the optical drive of another nearby Mac — just insert your disc, then launch a Finder window on the Air and select Remote Disc from the sidebar. There’s no Ethernet port, just 802.11n Wi-Fi, but Apple sells an USB Ethernet Adapter for .

And there’s also no hard drive. Apple instead opted for flash memory sticks, the same kind of memory in its iPod line (except the hard-drive-equipped iPod classic), the iPhones, and the iPad. But to save space and weight, they didn’t even use a true SSD, or solid-state drive, which is made up of flash memory but in a traditional hard drive shape. Instead, Apple put the flash chips right on the logic board, saving space in the enclosure for more and bigger batteries. Apple claims this 11.6-inch Air will get 5 hours of productivity and a whopping 30 days of standby time. We can’t wait to test that spec out, but so far so good…

The flash memory also provides an incredibly speedy experience. The Air comes to life virtually instantly when you press the Power button or open the case. And even with its 2GB of RAM and 1.4GHz Core 2 Duo, this Air launches all of Apple’s packed-in applications in, well, in a flash. We did a side-by-side app-launching test to compare launch times for Mail, Safari, iChat, Address Book, iCal, iTunes, Preview, and the iLife 11 applications on the Air and on my brand-new work machine, a 2.66GHz Core i7 MacBook Pro with 4GB of RAM. With that kind of processor speed and double the RAM, you’d think the Pro would smoke the Air, huh? Not so. Thanks to the flash memory, the Air’s applications launched almost instantly, while the Pro’s apps are stored on a regular hard drive with spinning platters, and took longer to launch. Check out the video below:

We’ll have a full review of the MacBook Air in an upcoming issue of Mac|Life, as well as here on, of course. But even after having it for just a few hours, we can say with confidence that it’s more compelling than the original (and more expensive) MacBook Air released in 2008, and quite a fun little machine to use.

We still don’t know if users can upgrade the RAM (Apple will let you upgrade to 4GB of RAM at the time of purchase for a fairly reasonable 0) or the memory (this 11.6-inch model comes in 64GB and 128GB flavors) after buying the Air. It doesn’t seem likely — there are no seams or doors to access the insides; it’s all sealed up like an iPad. But we’re still checking with Apple to be sure, and will update this when we hear back. Anything else you’d like to know about the new MacBook Air? Let us know in the comments.


HP First To Join iPad Wireless Printing Party

Remember, remember the 5th of Novemember… or at the very least, one of the month’s other 29 days. Why? Because It’s during that oft neglected month of the year that iOS 4.2 for iPad will become available to eager Apple tablet-tapping consumers. Along with multi-tasking and a plethora of new features, iPad owners along with their iPhone and iPod touch toting fellows will be gifted with no-hassle wireless printing. Apple’s calling this sweet new feature AirPrint, and according to the company’s PR people, Hewlett Packard will be the first company offering up compatible hardware that will sync up with your iOS powered devices to crank out the pages.

According to Apple:

“AirPrint is designed to support a wide range of printers from entry level inkjet printers to office laser printers. Additionally, iOS 4.2 devices can print to printers shared through a Mac® or a PC. iOS 4.2 compatible HP printers this fall include the HP Photosmart, Officejet, Officejet Pro and LaserJet Pro series ePrint enabled printers.”

What does that mean for iPad owners that use the device as a productivity tool? You’ll soon be able to print with impunity. Being forced to connect and dump a document on to a computer or email it to a terminal in order to print will be a thing of the past.

Needless to say, we the wordy geeks of Mac|Life couldn’t be more eager for this feature… unless of course, Apple figured out a way for us to AirPrint money.


Game Center Goes Live, Ms. PAC-MAN Gobbles First Spot

With the release of iOS 4.1 today, many are scrambling to download and play Game Center games with their non-iPhone 3G using friends. Unfortunately, there are not a lot of games to choose from right now, but a member on the Touch Arcade Forums is documenting the approved games as they become available in iTunes.

Currently there are 28 games that have announced support for Game Center, but only one has been approved as of now: Ms. PAC-MAN [iTunes Link]. Currently, Ms. PAC-MAN supports Game Center’s achivements and leaderboards. With this you can show off your high score with friends and earn achivement points.

As you may know, Game Center gives games the ability to have multi-player modes, VoIP, leader boards, achievements, and more.

Stay tuned to Mac|Life for more information on Game Center and newly release games.

Follow this article’s author, Cory Bohon on Twitter.



First Look At Concept Art For Tron Experience At Disneyland


(Image courtesy of

You knew it was only a matter of time.  It was three years ago that the first test footage of Tron: Legacy premiered at Comic-Con.  Wouldn’t it be something to be able to experience something of that caliber first hand?  If all goes well for the merry band of Disney Imagineers, the Tron: Legacy experience could soon be coming to Disneyland, according to Slash Film.

Disney has already changed up the monorails in Orlando to become light bikes, to help promote the upcoming release.  Other rumors on the docket are that Flynn’s Arcade will become a part of Tomorrowland, there’ll be a refresh of the People Movers and perhaps even a new Tron: Legacy ride.

Below are some images courtesy of Slash Film that give a glimpse into some of the concept art for ElecTRONica:




ElecTRONica is going to be a nighttime dance party/experience that’ll happen every Friday, Saturday and Sunday coming this fall at Hollywood Pictures Backlot in Disney California Adventure park starting October 8th, 2010.  Here’s a further breakdown on the experience according to the DisneyParks Blog:

It’s an “electrifying” experience for the entire family, filled with music, lights and some of your favorite food and beverage, all set amidst the captivating world of “TRON: Legacy!”  From a dazzling dance club under the stars to an authentic recreation of Flynn’s Arcade to some radical gaming, it’s like nowhere else on the grid!  Each night, we’ll feature live entertainers, complete with lasers, glow accessories and the hottest music ever to rock the grid.  ElecTRONica is “the” place to dance the night away in a fantastic world that only Disney can create. Highlights for the entire family will definitely be Flynn’s Video Arcade, face painting and the TRON: Evolution video game area.  TRON fans and families can also enjoy the party seven days a week during Thanksgiving week and Christmas week.

As far as an actual ride, Disney’s President of Production/Tron Legacy producer Sean Bailey had this to say at Comic-Con:

“We don’t know yet. Look, as a kid, I went to the park like you. Certainly, the idea that something you worked on is ultimately one day at the park, what a thrilling possibility. These rides take a lot of time, a lot of energy, and a lot of thinking to do them at the level our Imagineers so brilliantly do. So I think it’s kind of in the thinking about stage, but man, I would love it if it became a reality one day.”

As would we Sean, as would we!

Follow this article’s author, Matthew Tilmann on Twitter



First Look: Apple TV

The new Apple TV is just a fourth of the size of the older version, and you won’t hear any hard drive hum because it doesn’t have a hard drive. It’s got some Flash memory inside to buffer the video stream, but Apple’s friendly rep wouldn’t tell us how much–it’s not about the memory, after all. The power supply is built in now, no more unwieldy brick. It’s got an A4 processor, one HDMI-out port, optical audio out, Ethernet, 802.11n Wi-Fi, and a USB port that’s still just for service purposes. The whole thing is smaller than a Big Mac container, dare we say portable, especially with its simple setup.

The menus aren’t much different than the current device running the Apple TV 3.0 software. You navigate it with a silver remote that has the same buttons as the old Apple Remote, slightly reconfigured, but the remote itself is larger. It feels great in the hand and will be less likely to get lost in couch cushions–like our tiny white Apple Remote always is.

It’s still an IR remote, so you need a line of sight to the Apple TV, but if you’d rather lock the Apple TV away behind a media cabinet door, the Remote app for iPhone and iPod touch can control the Apple TV too. It’s also easier to search for content with the Remote app since it’s got a keyboard. Searching with the actual remote requires a lot of button presses, since you’re selecting letters on the onscreen display.

Netflix is now an option in the Internet menu. You have to be a Netflix subscriber to use it; those plans start at .99 per month for one DVD at a time (through the mail) and unlimited Instant Watch. The Instant Watch library is smaller than the DVD library, but you can browse and search the selections right from your Apple TV, add movies and TV series to your Instant Watch queue, and stream the video in 720p (when available — some Instant Watch titles are in standard def only). The interface for Netflix looks gorgeous and very Apple-like, head and shoulders above using Netflix on a TiVo HD or Roku box.

The other big change is no more purchasing content on your Apple TV. It doesn’t have a hard drive, so nothing is stored there permanently, and no longer syncs content from your Mac or PC. Instead, you can rent movies and TV shows directly from the Apple TV. If you’d rather purchase (including Season Passes of TV shows), you can do that in iTunes on your Mac or PC, and then stream that content to your Apple TV. Currently, the computer has to be on and running iTunes for streaming, so we assume that’s how streaming will work to the new Apple TV as well. The Apple TVs in the demo room had multiple computers listed under the Computers menu ready to stream content, a nice change from the current model of syncing to one computer and streaming from others.

Movie rentals are the same price: .99 for first-run releases in HD, .99 in SD, with prices decreasing over time. TV show rentals are 99 cents per episode for HD, and you can choose standard-def for the same price if you’d prefer that (less taxing on your network, for example). Once you rent a video, you get 30 days to begin watching it, and then once you start playback you get 24 hours to finish a movie, and 48 hours to finish a TV show.

Let’s compare the pricing between buying and renting TV shows: Gossip Girl Season 3 has 22 episodes. So if you rented those one at a time over your Apple TV, you’d spend roughly . Purchasing the full 22-episode season in the iTunes Store on your Mac will set you back .99 for HD and .99 in SD, but you own them and can watch as many times as you like. (Of course, you’ve got to store them too.)

Steve Jobs claimed in his talk that most consumers don’t want to worry about storage, but if you’re not one of those people you can still keep your videos safely stored on your Mac and just stream ’em. A Season Pass for the current fourth season of Mad Men is .99 in HD for 13 episodes. So you could rent those instead of buying and pay only about . The important thing to remember is that you get a choice whether to rent or buy.

And it should be pointed out that Amazon currently sells HD and SD episodes of TV shows for 99 cents, which you can watch on your TV through your Roku box, TiVo, or other compatible Internet-connected HDTVs and Blu-ray players. So be sure to shop around before deciding which store to use.

Oh, and one more thing: Apple TV can play content from your iPhone, iPod touch, and iPad as well as from your computer or from the Internet. iOS 4.2 (coming this November to the iPod touch, iPhone, and iPad) will include a feature called AirPlay that lets you start a video on your iDevice, then tap one button to send the video over to your Apple TV. This works with photos and music too. AirPlay is a new name for AirTunes, which already let you stream iTunes music to AirPort Express-connected stereos and Apple TVs on the same network, so it’ll still do that too.

The new Apple TV is , and Apple’s taking preorders now to ship the devices in about 4 weeks. The big unanswered question is: What about the current Apple TV owners? Will we get a software update that brings Netflix playback, AirPlay, and TV show rentals to our older Apple TVs? We asked Apple and are waiting to hear back. Any more questions? Sound off in the comments below.

Follow this article’s author, Susie Ochs, on Twitter.