Hipmunk Strikes a Deal with ITA, Vudu Hits the PlayStation3, Android Creeps Up on iOS: A Friday News Roundup

It’s been such an action-packed week in the technology world that I ran out of time to tell you about a few interesting local news items.

—Cambridge, MA-based ITA Software and Hipmunk, the Y Combinator-backed startup based in San Francisco and founded by Reddit co-founder Steve Huffman and computer-book author Adam Goldstein, announced that they had struck a licensing deal. Hipmunk’s graphical flight search interface speeds the process of canvassing airline travel options, and the startup has signed an agreement to use ITA’s QPX airfare shopping system as a data source for its own site. That will make it easier for Hipmunk to offer comprehensive flight choices.

But the real significance of the announcement may be as a non-agression pact. A few observers have grumbled about the striking resemblance between Hipmunk’s flight search matrix and a similar search results interface developed by ITA. But rather than pursue litigation (seemingly the default response to competition these days), ITA appeared to be offering a peace overture to the smaller company. “It is always good to see new start-ups entering the field,” ITA president and CEO Jeremy Wertheimer said in Hipmunk’s QPX announcement. “ITA is happy to partner with Hipmunk to help them improve the travel experience.” (The Department of Justice is currently reviewing Google’s bid to acquire ITA.)

Vudu, a Santa Clara, CA-based subsidiary of Wal-Mart, announced a total overhaul of the user interface for its cloud-based movie delivery system. The new interface, which is optimized for wide-format, high-definition TVs and makes it easier to navigate between screens and get personalized movie recommendations, will show up by the end of the year on all Vudu-capable devices—meaning HDTVs and Blu-ray disc players from manufacturers like Funai, LG, Mitsubishi, Samsung, Sanyo, Sharp, Toshiba, and Vizio.

Vudu also announced that its service will be added to Sony’s PlayStation Network, meaning PlayStation3 owners will soon be able to access Vudu’s streaming, high-definition movies over their home Internet connections. Vudu said PS3 movie rentals would cost $2 for two nights, which is about half as much as the going rate for digital movie rentals from Apple or Amazon.

JiWire, a San Francisco company that serves ads for those welcome screens you see when you log in to public Wi-Fi networks at coffee shops, hotels, and airports, released a study of trends in mobile and Wi-Fi usage, based on a survey of 1,200 users and data from 315,000 public Wi-Fi locations. Both the number of public Wi-Fi access points and the amount of time people spend using them continue to grow dramatically, at about 20 percent per year, the company found.

Remarkably, the study showed that the iPad—after only seven months on the market—is already the Number 3 non-laptop device used to access public Wi-Fi networks, after the iPhone and the iPod touch. In fact, people using iOS devices accounted for 90.8 percent of all public Wi-Fi usage in the third quarter of 2010. But that percentage was down slightly from the previous quarter; Google’s Android mobile operating system was the only one to gain market share during the quarter.

“iOS is still the top operating system by a huge margin, but we’ve seen it consistently decline against the other platforms, and Android is the one emerging as the constant growth platform,” JiWire senior vice president of marketing David Staas told me.

Wade Roush is a freelance science and technology journalist and the producer and host of the podcast Soonish. Follow @soonishpodcast

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