iTunes Accounts Hacked, App Rankings in Books Category Gamed

I was tipped off that a widespread effort is underway to game the Books category of iOS apps in the iTunes App store.  It appears that a coordinated effort is underway to use iTunes accounts to purchase specific apps to drive them up in rankings.

This of course affects those who have unauthorized charges to their credit card, and also those developers with apps in competition for rankings in the book category.

My guess would be that the unethical developer behind this push would also game up competitors apps so that it is unclear which is at fault or benefiting the most from the hacking.  It seems that Apple should have checks and balances to detect for and trigger a flag when a previously unpopular, over-priced iOS app is suddenly in the top 10.

Evidence of folks who have discovered hacks are currently in the comments for some of the apps that have made their way up through gaming.  Currently “Conan 3″ an app described as “this is a application to read book” by Thuat Nguyen is in position #9 in the books category today. One of the reviews is as follows:

Watch Out!

Someone out there is hacking into people’s iTunes accounts.  This just happened to me last night.  Luckily, my bank is right on top of things like this and did not authorize release of the funds and closed the account.  Keep a watchful eye on your account information….often!”

Here’s a screen shot of that app’s preview page as it stands. Here are a few tweets about folks getting their iTunes account hacked and an article from May on what the fallout when your iTunes account gets hacked.

Consider updating your iTunes password to include numbers, characters and capitalization!

Killer Application for Apple Tablet is Board Games

There’s a lot more speculation about the tablet since a New York Times blog entry that included a quote that people will be “surprised how you interact with the new tablet.”  A lot of the conjecture is based on applications for patents that Apple has filed in the past few years.  I have an angle that offers interesting interaction with the Apple Tablet, iSlate, iGuide or Apple Slate with a killer application is decidedly low-tech.

The idea is that the iSlate will communicate and be driven in part by nearby iPhones and iPod Touch devices over Wi-Fi or Bluetooth.  Authorized iPhone and iPod Touch devices nearby the iSlate will act as sophisticated remote controls.  This use case takes advantage of the user’s likely existing Apple hardware in the Touch platform and focuses on the fact that the iSlate will likely have a large, bright screen with a reasonable viewing angle. Let’s examine a potential killer application of this idea.

The tablet screen will be able to lie flat on a table between two or more people.  Through iTunes, the owner of the tablet will purchase an application that runs full screen on the tablet.  The publisher of the tablet application will also make available free applications that run on the iPhone and iPod Touch and communicate directly with the app running on the tablet.

Using the Apple Tablet as a Centerpiece to Electronic Board Games

A great example would be the classic board game, Scrabble.  In Scrabble, you have a board that requires physical placement of letters on a major center area.  It also requires players to keep the letters in their tray secret from other players.  In a Scrabble for the iSlate scenario, players need only to have an iPhone or iPod Touch to virtually hold their letters.

The iPod Touch or iPhone could vibrate or make a noise when it is a player’s turn and it would be used to send the results of the player’s decisions to the Apple tablet at the center of the table.

One important aspect of this is size, the traditional Scrabble board is a fair bit larger than the expected 10.1″ Pixel Qi powered display.  I believe that this type of thing could be overcome by the tablet giving intelligent focus to the most relevant portions of the board.  Additionally, the iPod Touch and iPhone could be used to manipulate the current viewing area on the tablet, or that area could be manipulated directly using standard multi-touch.

Many other board games would work in this scenario, including Monopoly, where you are handling all kinds of cash, property cards and frequent score calculations. The value you get out of the pairing of a Tablet and the iPhone is that there is a new bridge between physical social interaction and the convenience of an electronic presentation.

Using the Apple Tablet to Share Presentations in Small Groups

There are many other killer applications where the iPhone and iPod Touch serve as input devices to the iSlate or Apple tablet.  One I would use in my meetings for my iPhone application design company, Neutrinos, LLC is a business application is in small group presentations.  The tablet is set up to run a presentation application full screen.

The tablet is handed to one or more clients seated near each other.  The presenter uses an iPod Touch or iPhone to control playback of the presentation.  The presenter’s multi-touch device offers presentation notes, previous and next slide previews and allows them to trigger in-presentation events like animations or even jumping out to a web-view for the clients to explore.  This gives the presenter an opportunity to give a private and engaging presentation in the middle of any cafe, airport or public space.

Using the Apple Tablet for Illustration and as a Supplemental Display Area for Floating Windows

A final use case scenario for using the iPhone and iPod Touch to drive the Tablet is in illustration.  I’ve been working directly with Portland artist Carolyn Main who spends a lot of time with her Wacom tablet.  While the Wacom offers a great deal of pressure point precision that the Apple Touch Platform is unlikely to compete with any time soon, it is reasonable to think that app developers will try to deliver illustration and animation applications that allow creation on the go.

Having an illustration application like Adobe Illustrator running on the tablet, and then being able to use an iPhone or iPod touch for swatch, tool or layer management would leave more of the iSlate’s screen real estate for drawing.

In John Gruber’s recent post about the tablet he writes: “And so in answer to my central question, regarding why buy The Tablet if you already have an iPhone and a MacBook, my best guess is that ultimately, The Tablet is something you’ll buy instead of a MacBook.”  My suggestion is that people buy the tablet because they already have an iPhone or iPod Touch.  Having both a Tablet and a touch makes the Tablet more useful with some great use case scenarios the low-tech realm of board gaming to business.

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Quake Live Beta

I received an unsolicited email a few days ago from id Software requesting that I join their beta program for Quake Live.  I haven’t played Quake since since 1999, but remember playing quite a bit of Quake 3 Arena–especially capture the flag.

In order to beta test, you first create an id Software user account, and then you have to create a second beta tester account just for Quake Live.   Both accounts require you to go through a registration/authentication email loop.

The gameplay is quite good, it feels just like Quake 3 Arena with a number of the original maps available for play.  The most impressive thing is that the game runs smoothly within a browser tab.  You can easily change game settings, including resolution changes on the fly, with a brief loading routine by the app.

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