Longer disruption follows series of selected iCloud, store downtimes
Following a series of short but widespread iCloud and online storefront-related outages, Apple's Game Center has been down since early Tuesday afternoon (Pacific TIme), and as of late Tuesday has still not yet been resolved. According to the company's system status page, every area of Apple's online services saw some level of outage on Tuesday, with a morning disruption of Siri, Apple Pay, storefront, and iCloud services followed by a second disruption of the online stores in the early evening.
Issue inconsistent between users, devices
Customers trying to use the App Store are currently experiencing a variety of problems, according to complaints. Some are seeing vague error messages, while others are simply unable to finish downloads; many users are unaffected. For those who are impacted, the trouble can interfere with both the iOS and Mac App Stores, and any version of iOS or OS X.
Many changes still up in the air, sources say
On top of new apps, Apple is also considering a number of improvements to existing apps and under-the-hood technologies, sources claim. An example of the latter is Notification Center, where Apple is allegedly interested in simplifying panels from "Today," "All," and "Missed" to just "Today" and "Notifications."
Improves integrity of game rankings
Apple has updated Game Center in order to cope with cheaters, according to a notice issued to developers. "You can now view and manage the top 100 scores and usernames for all of your Game Center leaderboards," the company writes. "Protect your legitimate players by signing in to iTunes Connect to delete fake scores or block players that post fake scores. You can also restore scores and players within the same time period," the memo continues.
FaceTime, iTunes Match, other iCloud features briefly affected
Several of Apple's online services were briefly impacted by outages earlier today, according to Apple's System Status page. The worst affected the iTunes Store, the iBookstore, and the Mac and iOS App Stores between 1:28 and 2:57PM Eastern time, preventing some people from making any purchases. During the same time period, people may have been unable to use iTunes in the Cloud or iTunes Match, or restore purchases from an iCloud backup.
Learning curve expected to stay minimal
iOS 7 is codenamed "Innsbruck," and will use a "very, very flat" design, sources for 9to5Mac claim. The OS is reportedly jettisoning any signs of gloss or skeuomorphism, making it flat on a level nearing the look of the Metro interface used in Windows Phone and Windows 8. Apple has sometimes been criticized for using unnecessary real-world analogies in the look of iOS and OS X, for instance by making its Calendar apps resemble leather daybooks.
Apple online services continue string of difficulties
Apple's online services are again suffering outages, their official system status page indicates. Between 7:20 and 9:32AM Eastern, some people may have been unable to access the iTunes Store or make purchases there. Still ongoing however are problems preventing people from creating Apple IDs or signing into Game Center, as well as authentication errors when trying to use iCloud. The latter may also prevent people from setting up a new iCloud account.
All issues now cleared, but service interruptions a hassle for many
Apple has reported some brief but widespread slowdowns and unavailability of Game Center -- starting in the wee hours of Thursday and again later that morning -- coupled with a prolonged mail issue that only affected a fraction of one percent of users on iCloud.com for half a day over Thursday and Friday. The disruption comes on the heels of scattered reports of brief iTunes Store outages and a more serious iMessage and FaceTime problem ten days ago, the latter of which lasted over five hours. All services are back to normal operation now.
Also upgrades Game Center, FaceTime, Messages
Apple has posted OS X 10.8.2, a major update for Mountain Lion. The main addition is Facebook integration, which was originally expected at the launch of the OS. The feature allows not only quick sharing of links and photos, but also the ability to receive Facebook alerts in the Notification Center. More hooks extend into Game Center, where people can "Like" games, and use Facebook as a source for friend recommendations. Scores can now be shared to Facebook, Twitter, Mail, or Messages; friends can be challenged to beat scores and achievements.
Bastion now available on iPad for $5
Bastion, a popular console and PC game featuring rich artwork and music that has garnered industry raves and user awards, has arrived on the iPad. The quest-oriented RPG, which features high-definition hand-painted artwork, reactive narration, variable difficulty so that all levels of players can complete the story and new touch controls for the iPad, requires either an iPad 2 or 2012 iPad and offers Game Center compatibility and all the features of the original game.
Known issues include problems with FileVault, Time Machine
Apple has released a fourth preview of Mountain Lion Server to developers. The code is also listed as build 12S219n, and follows just a day after a third update of the main Mountain Lion preview. A number of known issues are listed in the Server preview; among others, there are several problems each in the use of FileVault, Time Machine, and Game Center.
Google working on native Game Center app
Google may be planning to roll out an app similar to Apple's Game Center app, a source has told Business Insider. The source contends that Google views such an app as essential to increasing Google's importance in the mobile gaming sphere. Apple's Game Center allows iPhone gamers to maintain a constant username applicable across all Game Center-connected games. The app also includes leaderboards and automatic matching for competitive games.
Many known issues still remain
Apple is now seeding a third developer preview of OS X Mountain Lion. The new build is listed as 12A178q, as opposed to the previous one's 12A154q. The OS is still saddled with a number of known issues, including several related to FileVault. Canceling the preview installer's restart, for instance, may prevent people from entering a password until Disk Utility is used to unlock and repair a volume; some installations on top of OS X 10.7.2 may fail if the older OS has FileVault enabled. FileVault accounts created before Lion won't work at all at in the current Mountain Lion preview.
OS X Mountain Lion Developer Preview 2 arrives
Apple finished the week with a post to its developer page for Mountain Lion Developer Preview 2. Build 12A154Q is primarily meant to address earlier flaws and doesn't specifically outline what's new or fixed. The build is clearly unfinished, however, and is currently missing 32-bit kernel extension support, a large number of Game Center features, limited Notes support, and issues with NVIDIA graphics drivers, DVD Player, and limited Recovery Partition features.
Mac OS X Mountain Lion adds iMessage, Reminders
In a surprise step, Apple on Thursday gave developers a preview version of OS X Mountain Lion, the next significant update to the core OS. The new version is directly influenced by iOS 5 and includes Notification Center, Reminders, Notes, Game Center, and Twitter integration, with iCloud syncing where it's relevant. AirPlay Mirroring is also new to the Mac and shares exactly what's on screen through an Apple TV.
Steam Mobile live for iOS and Android
Valve has partly fulfilled one of the most common wishes of gamers Thursday by posting Steam Mobile. Versions for both iOS (App Store) and Android (Market) lets users both keep up with their Steam chats and groups while away. They can go so far as to buy games for the Mac or Windows that they can start downloading immediately when they get home.
Graphics enhanced from Dreamcast days
Namco Bandai will release Soul Calibur for iOS devices on Thursday, January 19th, featuring Retina Display-level graphics, Game Center support and virtual pad controls that the company promises will better mimic traditional console controls. The release of the first Soul Calibur game for iOS precedes the release of Soul Calibur V for PS3 and Xbox consoles on February 2nd. The iOS game will have six modes and 19 playable characters.
Invisible ink would allow quick pairings
A series of new patent applications shows Apple interest in avatars, as well as unusual digital handshakes, reports say. In the latter concept, invisible inks and optical coatings would be integrated into a part of a device such as a glass bezel or an Apple logo. Properly-equipped cameras in another device could then detect the special material, interpreting it as a key for use in sharing data, establishing secure connections, or even identification at retailers. One example involves holding an iPhone in front of a MacBook to log in.
Peggle Nights available as an in-app purchase
PopCap Games has launched Peggle HD for the iPad and put it on sale from its future price in celebration. The app, which was first produced in 2007, has been downloaded more than 30 million times and won numerous industry awards. The companion game Peggle Nights will also be available as an in-app purchase in Peggle HD, and the game also features Game Center support and 29 achievements for players to unlock. The HD version has been written specifically for the iPad, but there is a separate version for the iPhone and iPod Touch as well.
iOS 5 UDID API goes away, goes app-specific
A new discovery in iOS 5's documentation has raised concerns about the level of access developers will have to device information. Apple now considers the programming interface for the UDID, or unique device identifier, a "deprecated" technology in the new release, documentation forward to TechCrunch showed. Coders could still have unique identifiers, but they had to make their own app-specific IDs.
Walmart.com to provide streaming demos
Gaikai is reportedly collaborating with Walmart to bring live game streaming to the retailer's website. The Game Center section of Walmart.com will allows visitors to play select games directly from a browser, without requiring users to download any files, sign up for subscription services, or wait for data-heavy content to load.
Mac App Store already main venue for software
During the course of today's WWDC 2011 keynote, Apple executives elaborated on a number of business milestones the company has achieved. The Mac App Store, for instance, is now claimed to be main channel for buying computer software, ahead of Best Buy, Walmart and Office Depot. The ranking does not reflect the actual popularity of Mac software versus Windows titles, the latter of which are often bought directly from publishers and developers, or through services like Steam.
Developer SDK seed out now, final in fall
Apple today previewed iOS 5, the next version of its firmware for the iPad, iPhone and iPod touch. The firmware represents a major overhaul, for instance completely changing the notification system to more closely resemble a mix of Android and webOS. Notifications are no longer temporary, but viewable in a Notification Center by swiping down from the top of the screen. The notifications themselves are no longer pop-up bubbles, but text that briefly swivels down while users are busy in another app.
GREE buys OpenFeint for 104m
Japanese mobile gaming social service provider GREE tonight bought OpenFeint for $104 million in a straight cash transaction. The deal gives GREE a connection to North America, Europe, and other areas it didn't previously serve as well as a reach of about 100 million total gamers, including Android and iOS gamers. They planned to build a "global gaming ecosystem" with faster upgrades but would also continue to develop their gaming networks in their respective countries, doubling the size of OpenFeint within this year.
Apple working to spur interest in Game Center?
While missing from the company's website, Apple has begun airing a new iPhone TV ad, simply dubbed "Game Center." The spot claims that Apple has the "largest selection of games on any phone," and provides two examples in the form of EA's Scrabble and Epic Games' Infinity Blade. Much of the commercial focuses on its namesake service however, which Apple notes can be used to find friends and arrange games with them.
Game app supports Game Center 16-multiplayer games
Firemint has announced the sequel to its Real Racing game for the iPhone, Real Racing 2, which is scheduled to arrive next week. The latest edition of the popular auto-racing game for iOS will feature 30 licensed cars and an expansive 16-car grid against the AI. The game offers career-mode play, covering over 10 hours of game time across a range of events. In addition to the career mode, gamers can play in Quick Race or Time Trial modes, along with local multiplayer, with up to 8 players, or online multiplayer with a maximum 16 players. Game Center support, Cloudcell integration and multiple profiles are all onboard in version 2.
Increased convenience, diminished privacy
Apple has sent out an e-mail notification, warning Game Center users of a change to the service's terms and conditions. As with Microsoft's Xbox Live network, Game Center users can send out friend requests to other gamers in order to track them and join up for multiplayer matches. In a significant difference however, Apple says it is now including real full names when requests are sent out, taken from Apple IDs.
More changes spotted in gold master code
Apple is already approving a variety of iOS 4.2-capable apps for sale, including ones supporting Game Center, developers note. Of special significance is the availability of the first iOS 4.x apps for the iPad, with features like multitasking support and more convenient interface access to Game Center content. One early cited example is Big Bad Sudoku Book 9.
iOS 4.1 comes with field test and GC-ready games
Following today's launch of iOS 4.1, discoveries have been made both in the firmware itself and for new updates in the App Store. The update is now known to have restored the Field Test Mode that had been pulled in all versions of 4.0. Dialing *3001#12345#* and tapping Call will bring up a signal measurement in dB, with higher numbers typically better; hitting the home button returns to normal.
Multiplayer for Nanosaur 2, Cro-Mag Rally, Enigmo
Following Apple's Game Center introduction alongside iOS 4.1, Pangea has updated three of its popular App Store titles with new multiplayer capabilities. Nanosaur 2 offers six new levels and three new multiplayer modes including Capture the Eggs, Battle and Race. The game takes advantage of Game Center features such as friend invites or auto-match.
Brings Game Center, crucial bugfixes
As expected, Apple is now deploying iOS 4.1 to iPhones and iPods via iTunes. The firmware incorporates a variety of anticipated changes, such as support for Game Center, Apple's Xbox Live-like gaming service. It also copes with several major glitches, including faulty proximity sensors, slow iPhone 3G performance and trouble with Bluetooth and Nike+iPod connections.
App still supported on 2nd-gen Touch
Apple has reset all user IDs for its Game Center multiplayer service, requiring beta users to resubmit their nicknames. The service will allow users to challenge other players, set up matches, or engage opponents via automatic pairing. The app will also serve as a portal for viewing rankings or taking a look at other games.
Service still awaits launch details
iOS developers should now be able to create metadata for Game Center leaderboards and achievements, according to a new Apple notice. The data must be entered through iTunes Connect, after which it can be tested in a closed environment. Achievements are essentially in-game feats, such as killing a certain number of a particular enemy, or discovering a new part of the map.
iOS 4.1 beta 3 out just a week after beta 2
Apple tonight posted its third beta of iOS 4.1 to the iOS developer center. The update comes just a week after beta 2 and, so far, is known to pull support for some older devices for Game Center. The social network component is "no longer supported" on the iPhone 3G or second-generation iPod touch, Apple said in its notes.
Should allow for better headsets, dash controls
More features are being discovered in the first iOS 4.1 beta, which was released to developers on Wednesday. In the long term the most important is proper AVRCP support for Bluetooth devices. Until now, headsets, car dashboard systems and other peripherals have been unable to control more than volume for Apple handhelds. Actually controlling playback has required using the iPod app, a potentially serious distraction; with AVRCP however, it should also be possible to skip forward and back through tracks using buttons.
Service preps in advance of iOS 4 launch
Developers can finally log into Apple's Game Center network, accounts say. After a person enters an existing Apple ID or creates a new one, a terms-of-service screen is now displayed. Users can then set up a unique Game Center account, with a nickname and settings for allowing invites, or being found by other gamers via e-mail. At a "Me" homescreen, people can can keep track of friends, games and achievements, or set a status message.
Will include iPad, iPhone 4.0 sessions
Apple has formally announced a schedule for the 2010 Worldwide Developers Conference. The event will be held June 7th through the 11th at Moscone West in San Francisco, and sport a distinct emphasis on iPhone and iPad apps. Developers will be able to attend the first sessions for the iPad, and labs for iPhone 4.0. As usual, a large section of the conference will still be devoted to Mac OS X.
APIs address multitasking architecture
Apple has released a second developer beta of iPhone 4.0, building in more of the firmware's eventual features. The update is said to include "significant API additions," mostly in areas related to multitasking and background processes for audio, VoIP, location services and task completion. An app can now, for instance, request as much as 10 minutes to finish a task, rather than just five.
Services duplicate online gaming functions
Apple’s new social gaming platform, Game Center, is already drawing a reaction from game developer Aurora Feint. The company runs OpenFeint, a free online service primarily for hosting leaderboards and achievements. OpenFeint X, launched in February, is a downloadable content platform that enables virtual goods management for free-to-play games without any server operations. While Apple is not known to be interested in DLC, Game Center could in theory threaten Aurora's ability to market its technology.
Game service to mimic Xbox Live
At today's iPhone 4.0 event in Cupertino, Apple simultaneously announced several related initiatives. Among these is Game Center, a unifying social network for handheld games. The service should in many ways mimic Microsoft's Xbox Live, supporting achievements, leaderboards and matchmaking, the latter with the ability to send invites to friends. It should launch sometime later this year.