Dell's John Thode on Apple's certainty of success
Thursday, Feb 18, 2010
Dell's VP of Mobile Devices John Thode, speaking to the Wall Street Journal about, what else, mobile devices:
If anybody tells you they know exactly what’s going to happen here, they’re either Apple or they’re smoking dope.
Somebody give this guy some weed.
Social Overload
Wednesday, Feb 10, 2010
Now, more than ever before, I've got to develop a strategy for where to post, and which services cascade my posts to other services. [cross posted to Twitter, Buzz, FriendFeed, Facebook, GTalk status and Google Reader]
A perfectly logical road to highly inconsistent names for apps in the iPod, iPad and iPhone
Wednesday, Feb 10, 2010
Apple's gone a bit wonky on its naming of things. In the beginning there was iTunes, then came the iPod and the iTunes Music Store. Eventually the iTunes Music Store became the more general iTunes Store. When the iPhone came out it had an 'iPod' app, and an 'iTunes' app was added later, linking specifically to the store. Later on an 'App Store' was added for the part of the iTunes store that sold apps. When the iPod Touch came out, it it split the 'iPod' app into a 'Music' app and a 'Video' app presumably because, unlike the iPhone, the Touch is an iPod. Now the iPad appears to follow the iPod Touch's convention of splitting video and music into two separate apps, though the music app is again called 'iPod' because the iPad is not an iPod. Each decision has a certain logic to it, but it leaves us with some strange inconsistencies (or are they?):
  • Both the iPhone and iPad have an 'iPod' app, but on the latter videos live in the 'Video' app.
  • The primary task of Videos and YouTube is the same: Watching videos.
  • There are two stores on the iPad, 'iTunes' and 'App Store', but one is named after a free music player and the other is a self-described store, but the one that distributes more free items is the 'Store' and the one that charges for almost everything isn't labeled as such.
  • App names are self-describing using english terms except for apps that weren't originally developed for the iPhone: 'YouTube', 'iTunes', 'Safari'' and 'iPod'.
  • The word 'Music' doesn't appear on the factory-issue home screen at all, and if you didn't already know that an iPod was a music player then neither the word nor the 'Classic iPod' icon would give you any indication that that's what it was for.
  • The same is true (perhaps to a greater degree) with 'Safari' and a compass. If you weren't already familiar with the app you'd think it was probably a game.
  • There are two default apps on the iPhone with a compass as the icon. One is a compass and the other has nothing to do with a compass or maps, despite there also being a 'Maps' application.
Finally, this one brings up an interesting point:
  • The iPod Touch and the iPad have both 'Videos' and 'Photos' apps, but user-shot videos reside in the 'Photos' app, not 'Video'.
The argument could be made that the iPod Touch can have a 'Videos' app because there's less likely to be user confusion than there would be on the iPhone, where users can shoot their own videos with the device. The iPod Touch doesn't have a camera, hence no device-created videos, so there's less likely to be cognitive overloading of the 'Videos' term. If this is the rationale for why the Touch has a 'Videos' app while the iPhone doesn't, the implication would be that the presence of a 'Videos' app on the iPad signifies that it won't have a camera either. Or maybe they just kept 'Videos' and 'iPod' combined in the iPhone because, hey, too many icons to fit on one screen already. Which makes me wonder: How many more Apps does Apple sell because they pushed the Address Book app to the second screen and left an open square on the home screen? I'm guessing a lot.
Microsoft response to Dick Brass
Thursday, Feb 04, 2010
Microsoft's response to Dick Brass (former Microsoft VP) editorial in the NYT:
At the highest level, we think about innovation in relation to its ability to have a positive impact in the world. For Microsoft, it is not sufficient to simply have a good idea, or a great idea, or even a cool idea. We measure our work by its broad impact.
Translation: "We don't have to be better. We're bigger." "Slow is okay when you're big."
Apple bans geotargeted ads in iPhone apps
Thursday, Feb 04, 2010
From the iPhone Dev Center:
If you build your application with features based on a user's location, make sure these features provide beneficial information. If your app uses location-based information primarily to enable mobile advertisers to deliver targeted ads based on a user's location, your app will be returned to you by the App Store Review Team for modification before it can be posted to the App Store.
Apple's stance that geotargeted advertising doesn't benefit the user is the strongest evidence I've seen yet that Google and Apple aren't on a collision course. Update: The thing is that every significant ad delivery platform uses location as a targeting signal. Ad networks geotarget off of the requesting IP address if not something with greater granularity. If Apple solely doesn't want the user to use the Core Location API for this purpose (a position that is still anti-user) then their note is written very badly because, as it's currently written, it means that using an ad delivery network that happens to use geolocation — even by IP guesstimation — will be returned to the developer until that capability is removed. In many cases thought this is completely out of the developer's control unless they change ad delivery platforms.
Do the iPad's missing apps point to a multitasking dashboard?
Tuesday, Feb 02, 2010
Steve's iPad keynote felt just a little off. We got what we wanted, but it still felt a little like the iPad was a vehicle full of potential rather than a self-contained package of productivity. This morning I woke up and realized what was missing: The minor apps. I'm looking forward to the amazing apps that will undoubtably be written in the coming months, but what about the existing apps that the iPhone and iPod Touch ship with? The iPad's home screen isn't just sparse because of all the extra real estate. There are six apps that are simply missing! I've made a matrix of the apps that ship with the iPhone 3GS, the iPod Touch, and those shown on Apple's web site and during last week's keynote on the iPad:
3GS Touch iPad
Voice Memos
iTunes Store
App Store
iPod ✔* ✔*
iBooks ?
*The Touch splits iPod into two apps: 'Music' and 'Video'. The iPad splits it into 'iPod' and 'Video'
The first thing to notice is that the iBook app is missing from all of the promotional shots on Work on these promotional graphics, especially the video shots, must have started weeks if not months ago, and there's been some buzz on the web that iBook was a late addition and wasn't a sure thing, so it makes perfect sense that it didn't make the deadline for inclusion in the promotional assets for the January unveiling. If you check out TechCrunch's hands-on video, you'll see at 1:10 that the iBook app is there, but that there are only eight apps total on the machine. Presumably apps not quite ready for prime time were kept (literally) away from the hands of the press. Far more interesting though are the simple apps that are missing from the promotional materials: Stocks, Weather, Voice Memo, Clock, and Calculator. With the exception of Voice Memo these are all basic apps that have been staples from the very beginning, and it makes no sense that they wouldn't be on the iPad, so why are they absent? I see two options, one of which is far, far more interesting than the other. The apps were left off of promotional materials for aesthetic reasons. (boring) It's possible though unlikely that Steve wanted to underscore the simplicity of the device by making the home screen as clean as possible. This makes the device seem less cluttered and showcases the beautiful Richard Misrach photo that Apple spent good money licensing. I say 'unlikely' because Apple wants to show off what their device can do, and because if this were the case then these 'minor apps' would be on the second page. Only there isn't a second page. The magnifying glass and the dot at the bottom of the home screen clearly indicate that this is the only page of apps. These apps are missing from the launchpad because they're no longer apps. They're dashboard widgets. (interesting) As I alluded to earlier, what Stocks, Weather, Voice Memo, Clock, and Calculator have in common is that they're all simple 'minor' apps that wouldn't know what to do with 1024x768 if you gave it to them. They're intended for quick reference, for quick 'in and out' tasks. In short, they're multitasking apps. It's clear that Apple believes this because with the exception of Voice Memo all these apps were OS X dashboard widgets before the iPhone ever existed. I would put forward that they're going back to their rightful place. The lack of multi-tasking has been a major criticism of the iPad this past week. A more dedicated device like the iPad suffers when you have to exit your browser, book or Keynote presentation just to bring up a calculator or check the weather (or respond to an iChat, but more on that in a moment). Luckily, this is a problem that Apple solved nearly a decade ago in a rather elegant fashion with the dashboard. Imagine if the same concept is lifted wholesale and brought to the iPad. Imagine that a five-finger pinch caused the screen to dim and a bevy of widgets flew in to the screen for quick consumption and calculation, and then were dismissed by another five-finger flick? With props to Entourage, 'Is that something you might be interested in?' It might not be OS multitasking but it's user multi-tasking and, unlike running several apps simultaneously, it behaves nicely. OS X dashboard widgets sit quietly when the dashboard's not up and make their calls and updates quickly when the dashboard is called up. Apps are designed either to be full-screen applications or quick-glance widgets. I'm assuming there's still some sort of occasional polling or push notification mechanism and user notification system so they can be alerted when there's an action they need to attend to like an instant message or a countdown timer. It's also a strong solution for the problem of iChat. Without SMS on the iPad it's clear that instant messaging will need to come to the device, but it's also clear that any practical IM client would have to be able to work nicely simultaneously with the user's primary task. An iChat dashboard widget would fit the bill nicely. Sixty days is a long time to try and maintain excitement for an unavailable product, and it's certain that Apple has a few updates planned between now and the end of March. Will they announce a front-facing camera? Maybe, but I'm more confident about this one. It's too good to pass up.
Guess the Apple: We have a winner!
Sunday, Jan 31, 2010
Thanks to everyone who entered last week's 'Guess the Apple' contest. I've graded all the responses and have your scores ready. All the multiple-choice questions were worth 2 points, and all the feature checkboxes were worth 1 point for correct guesses and minus 1 point for incorrect guesses. So, without further ado, with 15 points, correctly guessing the product name, the display type, the case material, the weight, and scoring almost perfectly on the feature matrix, our winner is kishba! Alone in second place with 14 points, narrowly missing any scandal of impropriety, is former Apple evangelist and BMUG co-worker Tim Holmes! There was a four-way tie for third with Philip, e, bjtitus and amitp all scoring 13 points, and a five-way tie for fourth with Mark Trapp, Andrew, Tao, Nick Baum and Friendfeed's Brizzly's own Ben Darnell! Congratulations Kishba on divining Apple's secrets better than the rest, and enjoy your $20 iTunes gift card! To everyone else, hang tight for a few months when we'll start taking bets on what 'A+ updates' are in store for the next iPhone!
Guess the Apple, win $20!
Monday, Jan 25, 2010
Think you know what Steve Jobs has up his sleeve (literally)? Make your picks in my Guess the Apple poll and take a crack at the fabulous $20 iTunes gift certificate grand prize! And even though it might reduce your odds, you can spread the word by Tweeting/Facebooking/Friendfeeding or shouting the URL to your friends: Entries accepted until Wednesday, January 27th ad 8am PST, two hours before the Apple Event begins, but don't wait. Enter now!
What if the Nexus One isn't sold by Google?
Thursday, Dec 17, 2009
Special note: This is a pure thought exercise based on news stories and my own speculation. Conventional wisdom:
  • Google has build an open-source phone OS based on the intention of expanding their advertising reach into the blossoming mobile markets, as opposed to making money selling hardware.

  • Google has said they're not going in to the business of building phones.

  • The Nexus One, built by HTC, is supposedly going to be sold both with and without contracts next month.

Everyone seems to assume that, because Google gave each of its employees one of these phones as a holiday bonus, Google is going into the business of selling hardware. My prediction:
  • The HTC Nexus One is a poster child, driven by Google, of how mobile phone OEMs can create a business selling lower-cost hardware directly to end users without carrier limitations, requirements, contracts and markups.

  • Given that Google's primary interest is getting incremental revenue through mobile usage of Google products, they would like the price point to be as low as possible and the adoption as high as possible.

  • It seems completely reasonable to me that Google negotiated a contract with HTC to co-design and manufacture a huge build of Nexus One phones, then instead of taking the inventory and selling themselves, Google will market the phone and use Google Checkout to connect customers directly with HTC at the Google-negotiated OEM price.

Presto! Google has brought an excellent phone to market at a very attractive price without actually being a hardware vendor themselves. And while the carriers may hate this, it serves as a poster child for how all the other mobile phone OEMs can follow suit and make a bundle by losing the bundling. 2010's going to be an interesting year in the mobile space... Update: Then again, the Nexus One trademark was applied for by Google, so that does weaken my theory a bit.
AT&T: Buy our astounding multimedia phones, but please don't use that pesky multimedia
Wednesday, Dec 16, 2009
AT&T has recently complained that their network is congested because 3% of their data plan users are responsible for 40% of their data network traffic, and have indicated that consequently they'll be raising the rates on that 3%. Three thoughts: If you're moving from a flat rate to a tiered rate in order to make sure the average user doesn't have to pay for the high-volume user, then a rate increase for high-volume users should be paired with a rate decrease for average users, right? I would bet good money that the bottom 40% of AT&T data plan subscribers account for less than 3% percent of AT&T's bandwidth. Where's their savings? If AT&T actually wanted to recoup losses from that 3% of users (who each, on average, use 21.5 times the amount of traffic as a user in the other 97%) they'd have to charge those users 10-20 times as much for their data plan. That would mean that three out of every hundred AT&T users would need to pay $300-600 per month for data. Clearly these users wouldn't stand for fees that high, which indicates that the purpose for tiered pricing isn't recouping costs, but is instead dissuading people from using their data plan 'excessively'. As the trend is for more and more interactivity and high-bandwidth applications, the carrier who actively promotes the features of phones with the capability to take advantage of high-bandwidth applications like video while actively dissuading its users from actually using those features once they're locked in to a contract is a carrier doomed to failure.

Hi, I'm Kevin Fox.
I've been blogging at since 1998.
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I'm co-founder in
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I've led design at Mozilla Labs, designed Gmail 1.0, Google Reader 2.0, FriendFeed, and a few special projects at Facebook.

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