Latest Announcement Email (3/27/2010)

Not open for further replies.


Staff member
(send an email to to sign up for our announcement list)

1. iPhone / iPod Flashcards
2. iPad
3. iPhone Flashcards Beta-test
4. Windows Mobile
5. Palm OS
6. WM / Palm Public Beta-test
7. Desktop / Web
8. Android


I generally don't send out an announcement email unless we have a new product or new version to announce, but it's been a few months since my last email and we have a bunch of upcoming releases and beta-tests to let you know about.

1. iPhone / iPod Flashcards

Our new software for iPhone / iPod Touch is selling briskly in spite of the fact that it doesn't yet support flashcards; we've already released three significant updates to it, and a fourth (a more minor bug-fix update) has already been submitted to Apple and should be available on iTunes soon. (if you didn't even know we had an iPhone version, see for product info)

The flashcard-equipped version of Pleco for iPhone is just about ready (see #3 below for information on beta-testing) - should hopefully be out within a few weeks - and it also adds support for user-created dictionaries, so once that's available you should be able to do everything in our iPhone software that you could do on Palm/WM. It took us a little longer than expected, but we think the results are worth the wait; see for a screenshot of the new testing interface.

Flashcards on iPhone will be a paid add-on module just like the document reader / handwriting recognizer / stroke order / audio, but our plan (assuming Apple doesn't prevent it) is to give a free copy of the flashcard module to anyone who transferred over from Palm/WM, or purchased one of our add-on "Bundles" on iPhone. We may increase the prices of those bundles after we release the flashcard update, though we'll probably keep them unchanged for at least a few weeks - we don't want to punish people who were waiting for flashcards to be released before buying the iPhone version.

Our iPhone flashcard system uses the same import / export and database formats as our Palm / WM flashcard system, so your Pleco 2.0 flashcards should transfer over pretty seamlessly with all of their categories / test settings / scores / etc intact. It should also be possible to transfer over flashcards from the older version 1.0 of Pleco if you haven't upgraded from that yet, using pretty much the same procedure for upgrading from 1.0 to 2.0 on the same platform.

2. iPad

The new Apple iPad tablet computer ( will be coming out in the US on April 3rd, and since it uses the same operating system as the iPhone it can run pretty much all of the same software; after installing the new bug-fix update I mentioned above, it should be possible to run Pleco in emulation mode - basically just a zoomed-in (pixel-doubled) version of the iPhone app - from the very first day the iPad is available.

Even better news on that front, though: after doing some preliminary testing, we actually think that we can have the first iPad-*optimized* version of Pleco - one that takes full advantage of the extra screen space - ready at the same time that we release the flashcard version. (it's only about a day or two of extra programming work) It'll be a little rough in a few places - there'll be some areas where you'll have one big block of text when you really want a split-screen view - but it should be quite functional, and for screen-space-intensive functions like the document reader it'll be a big improvement over the emulated version.

We're not planning to charge an upgrade fee for either of the iPad-friendly versions of Pleco, but add-ons transferred over from Palm or Windows Mobile are still subject to the one-device-at-a-time rule, so if you want to run one of those on your iPad you'd need to uninstall it from your iPhone / iPod first. However, add-ons purchased originally on iPhone can be activated on any device that's linked to your iTunes account without buying them again, so those can be run on your iPhone and iPad simultaneously.

3. iPhone Flashcards Beta-test

We're doing a very short external beta-test to double-check that there aren't any serious bugs in our iPhone flashcard software; we're hoping this will only last for a week or two, but it's still quite valuable since it puts the system through its paces with a lot of different flashcard databases / testing styles / etc.

Unfortunately, we can't open this beta-test to everyone who's interested in it, but there are three types of tester we're looking for:

1) People who participated in the original iPhone version beta-test, and are still using the same iPhone / iPod.

2) People with jailbroken iPhones / iPods - i.e., devices that have been hacked to run non-Apple-approved software - who are computer-savvy enough to know how to install software on them without using Cydia or another automatic installer program (i.e., how to manually install an application you downloaded from the internet).

3) Other people who are already familiar with our flashcard system from Pleco 2.0 on Palm or Windows Mobile and have a lot of free time in the next two weeks to spend on testing.

If you're interested in testing our iPhone flashcard software and you're in one of those categories, send me an email ( letting me know which category you're in, along with your iPhone / iPod's UDID (see below), your Pleco "Registration ID" (should be in your registration / license transfer email, or you can get it from the "My Orders" page on our website), and, if you already use Pleco flashcards on Palm / WM, the "Total Cards" and "Total Repetitions" numbers from the "Statistics" screen (in your most heavily-used profile). A little basic information about how you like to use Pleco flashcards (self-scored versus free-answer versus multi-choice, repetition-spaced or frequency-adjusted study, multiple profiles / scorefiles, left- or right-handed, any tricky extra features like score-based field selection / dictionary remapping, etc) would also be helpful.

UDID: to find your iPhone / iPod's UDID, connect it to your computer, click on your iPhone / iPod where it's listed under "Devices" in iTunes, and click on the word "Serial Number" at the top of the page to reveal your UDID. Copy it to the clipboard (Control-C on Windows, Command-C on Mac) and paste it into an email. Alternatively, just open up Pleco on your iPhone / iPod, go to the "Settings" tab and tap on "Contact Support" - your UDID will be included in the text of that email and you can forward / copy-and-paste it from there.

Please use the subject line "iPhone Flashcards Beta Request" (your email will probably be ignored / discarded otherwise), and please send in your beta-testing request no later than Monday evening (3/29/2010) New York time. We'll let you know Tuesday whether or not you've been accepted into the beta-tester pool, and if so we'll send you instructions for downloading / installing the beta version that same day (probably in the same message).

4. Windows Mobile

Microsoft finally announced the long-awaited new version of Windows Mobile, Windows Phone 7, a few weeks ago, with the first phones using it scheduled to be released towards the end of 2010. It's very impressive looking, with an innovative new tile-based user interface, but unfortunately it's also totally incompatible with software written for older versions of Windows Mobile; getting Pleco working on it would be almost as complicated as getting it working on iPhone was.

As far as we know, no current Windows Mobile handset (not even the slick new HTC HD2) will be upgradeable to Windows Phone 7, so this won't affect your ability to run Pleco on the hardware you already have, but if you buy a new phone running Windows Phone 7 you probably won't be able to run Pleco on that. If Windows Phone 7 proves popular, we certainly might consider developing a version of Pleco for it - it'd still be easier to develop for than a Java-based platform like Android (see below) or BlackBerry - but since the first phones running it won't even be available until the end of the year, it's doubtful we'll have any idea about whether WP7 is a viable platform for us for quite a while.

Microsoft has stated that they plan to keep releasing updates for the "old" Windows Mobile - latest version 6.5 - even after Windows Phone 7 is available, and since there are a lot of large corporations running custom-developed Windows Mobile applications that don't want to have to rewrite them (take a look at what your FedEx delivery guy uses to scan your package), it's likely there will still be Windows-Mobile-6.5-based hardware available for quite a while.

So in spite of the Windows Phone 7 announcement, we have no immediate plans to discontinue the Windows Mobile version of Pleco; sales of it are actually holding up reasonably well, not in the same league as iPhone but at least at a level where it's still a viable / profitable business for us. That being said, some future new features (particularly those with a lot of new user interface) may be iPhone-only, and when it comes time to replace your phone / handheld, the best choice for running Pleco will probably be an iPhone or an iPod Touch.

5. Palm OS

Palm effectively discontinued Palm OS more than a year ago when they announced its replacement, webOS, which (like Windows Phone 7) is not backwards-compatible with their older operating system; webOS is the operating system used on Palm's new Pre and Pixi phones. webOS actually can run Palm OS applications via a $30 emulator app called MotionApps Classic, but while all of Pleco's features basically work in that, the impression we get from our users is that some of them (especially handwriting input and text selection) don't work well enough to be useful. So the Palm OS version of Pleco is really only usable on the increasingly-outdated Palm Treos / Centros / Tungstens / Zires / etc, none of which even seem to be available in stores anymore.

Hence, it seems like the time has come - at long last - to phase out support for Pleco on Palm OS. It's difficult even now to abandon the platform on which we got our start way back in 2001, but Palm has been dead for quite some time now, and the resources we've been spending on continuing to support it can be better used elsewhere. On top of which, continuing to support Palm OS with our cross-platform code base has made it difficult / impossible to add some new features we'd really like to add, such as full-text search in user-created dictionaries.

So, effective after the release of the new 2.0.4 update (now in beta-testing - see below), we will no longer be releasing new versions of Pleco on Palm OS. We'll still release bug-fix updates for Palm if necessary, and if we can we'll even try to make new add-on dictionary databases available on Palm, but you should not expect to see any new features added to Pleco for Palm OS from this point onward.

6. WM / Palm Public Beta-test

We're currently beta-testing a pretty significant update (2.0.4) to our software on both Windows Mobile and Palm OS in our discussion forums at:


This beta test is open to all of our Palm / WM customers - you just need to register for a discussion forums account to access it. It adds some new features that originally debuted in our iPhone software, like more flexible Pinyin input (no more need to enter spaces / apostrophes before mid-word syllables that begin with vowels as in "raner" or "tiananmen"), more seamlessly integrated full-text search, and sandhi transformation in syllable-by-syllable audio playback, along with some brand new features like updated flashcard / user dictionary database formats (for better performance), improved flashcard scoring / repetition-spacing systems, and an optimization to improve system stability (by reducing the number of files open at the same time) on Windows Mobile, along with of course a bunch of bug fixes.

7. Desktop / Web

I've been alluding to the possibility of a desktop version of Pleco in these emails for several years now, and people have quite reasonably started writing to ask when we're actually going to get off our duffs and release one.

We've actually had all of the necessary licenses lined up for a desktop version of Pleco for quite some time; when we started work on Pleco 2.0, we fully expected that our next project after that would be a desktop version. However, the emergence of iPhone intervened, and instead of spending the last year working on an desktop version we've spent most of it getting everything ported over to iPhone.

After all of this time, however, the market for desktop software has changed somewhat; much of what people used to do in desktop software, they now do on the web, and it's getting increasingly difficult to justify developing a non-web-based desktop application at this point, particularly for something like Pleco where synchronization (of flashcards, new user dictionary entries, etc) - much easier to do online than offline - would be a key feature.

So we're now attempting to amend some of our key license agreements with publishers to cover a possible web-based version of Pleco; if we're successful at that, it will most likely replace an offline desktop version in our product plans. We should hopefully know about that web-based version one way or another within a few months.

8. Android

I've gotten quite a few emails lately asking about a version of Pleco for the Google Android OS that's used on phones like the Nexus One and the Motorola Droid, so I wanted to provide some clarification on that too. While we know Android is getting to be quite popular, at the moment we're not prepared to commit to ever developing an Android version of Pleco, and here's why.

The big problem with Android for us is that it's an open-source operating system; this means that the mobile phone manufacturers and cellular carriers that use it can essentially modify it however they see fit, without any restrictions from Google or anybody else. They don't need to pay Google any license fees, in fact they can even replace Google as the default search engine if they so choose.

That might seem like a fine and lovely thing, but the problem with it from a software development perspective is that without a central authority, there's nobody in a position to make sure that every Android-based phone is compatible with all Android software; indeed, compatibility issues have already started to appear on some Android phone models. Adding new features to the operating system is a great way for mobile phone manufacturers to differentiate their phones from those of their competitors, so many of them have eagerly done so with Android, even to the detriment of software compatibility.

Android's open-source nature also means that, somewhat ironically, manufacturers and cellular carriers can impose whatever restrictions they want on their Android-based phones without anyone stopping them. Android is often touted for its openness, the fact that unlike iPhone, Android phones can run applications even if they haven't been "approved" by the manufacturer, but on some newer Android phones (e.g. the Motorola Backflip) that's no longer the case; apps for those phones have to be submitted to Google or the phone manufacturer before release, and can be approved or rejected just as on iPhone.

So we're very worried that in another year or two there'll no longer be one "Android" we can develop for - there could be half a dozen or more Android-based OSes that we have to individually develop / optimize our software for, and multiple application stores to deal with every time we release an update. Which could mean that instead of continuing to improve our software and add new features, we'd be spending all of our time simply making sure that our software works correctly on the latest Android phones.

For some types of software, this might be OK - games, for example, generally rack up most of their sales in the first few months after they're released, so a developer can release an Android game and not really have to worry about whether it'll still work correctly on the newest Android phones a year down the line. And server-based applications like Twitter and Facebook are usually simple enough that they can be kept up-to-date with relatively little work. But Pleco sells very complicated, expensive, specialized software, and it usually takes us at least a year to add support for a new operating system, so we need a level of stability / consistency that we don't think we're likely to get with Android.

Now of course this could change - Google could come up with some clever new licensing / incentive system to keep all of the various Android phone manufacturers in line, or the fragmentation problem could turn out to be less severe than we fear - but we'll need to see a lot of evidence that that's happening before we can consider developing an Android version. So even if we do eventually decide to do one, I think it's unlikely we'd begin working on it until sometime in 2011, which means it probably wouldn't be out until 2012.

We are certainly aware of the need to offer *some* alternative to iPhone; I've never quite understood why so many people hate Apple (it's not like Microsoft is any better), but they do, and anyway it's not very good business to be dependent on just one platform for all / most of your sales. We're just not sure if Android is the right choice for that alternative; along with Windows Phone 7, the new Nokia Symbian^4 due out around the same time seems like it has a lot of potential (and, like Windows, would be easier to develop for than Android), and a mobile web-based version of Pleco has a great deal to recommend it too.

As always, thanks for your continued support of Pleco, especially to those of you who've told your friends / colleagues / students / etc about us; we really appreciate the word-of-mouth. Thanks also for the steady stream of feedback and bug reports; many of the best features in our software are the direct result of user feedback. As always, further feedback / comments / bug reports can be sent directly to me at

Best regards,

Michael Love
Founder & President
Pleco Software
Not open for further replies.