September 2010
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Month September 2010

Week in Links: Apps, Ideas and Reality

Top 10 Twitter AppsApple’s “there’s an app for that” marketing has been causing companies to go app crazy and forget that a websites are still the primary point of interaction for users.  A few weeks back the folks at Twitter reminded people that despite the fact that the heavy users all use 3rd party apps (desktop or mobile) the majority of users (78%) use Twitter.com. This week the folks at Twitter launched a new version of Twitter.com that features a number of elements that were previously only available in the app world.  They added a dynamic side panel to showcase user profiles and conversation view all while not disturbing the core of what Twitter.com was.  They’ve brought the sophistication of the external apps to the masses and with this they may have inadvertently signaled the return to web apps. For those that haven’t gotten the (rolling) invite to the new site check out TechCrunch’s overview “Best subtle things about new Twitter“.

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A week doesn’t go by without Google making an announcement about something or other. This week they get their Google Voice app back on the iPhone. MacRumors gives a detailed run through of the app. Looks like Google has cleaned up their UI a bit with this version and offers just about everything the phone could do with the addition feature of translating your voice-mails into text. The one thing it can’t do at the moment is MMS, otherwise for $2.99 you can double the number of phones in your pocket without the bulk.

Also Google related is the steady growth of their Android platform, which is now 17% of the smartphone market. To put that in perspective the iPhone is at 24% and RIM’s BlackBerry commands 39%. Also note that the overall smartphone market has grown and these numbers are percentages of that growing market (data from Wired).

Part of Android’s success is it promotion from Verizon not having the iPhone to promote and instead needing to compete with it. Now Verizon wants a bigger cut of the action and has opened their own app marketplace. They say it’s for improved customer choice, but I’ll go with control and money.

While Android is growing into the third largest smartphone platform Nokia held it’s Nokia World 2010 event. They boasted that Nokia has a larger market penetration then Apple and Android combined, the threat is clear (as in they’re threatened). They followed their showcase of facts with info on their latest models, the N8 being the darling of the bunch. They flaunted “they perform day in and day out no matter how you hold them,” an obvious dig on the iPhone4. Then went into talking about the latest advances in Symbian and coding for it. Sadly, for US customers as nice as Nokia’s equipment is, if no carrier picks them up they don’t exist.

Final reference to Google (for this week) is their recent site/blog conveniently called Google New where they are posting all their latest products/projects. And by the looks of it they’ve been busy.

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FCC is looking at opening up some radio frequencies, one of the selling points for opening these frequencies is the potential for Super WiFi. The are suggesting that this new Super WiFi would be able to travel farther and through buildings due to the longer wavelengths.

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“Flash is dead, long live HTML5/CSS3.” Ever since Steve Job’s BS’ed his reasons why he didn’t want Flash on the iPhone this mantra of many front-end developers had some indisputable logic in regards to the mobile market. Now Android 2.1 supports Flash inside a browser as well as HTML5 true comparisons can finally be made. Based on the finding of Christopher Black’s tests (the video below) and a number of others Steve’s claims are no longer valid, if they ever truly were. So once again, developers have a choice as to what the right tool for the job.

Based on how the two technologies work it’s of little surprise, to me, that Flash (a platform based around animation) out performs HTML (which is designed around static structured layouts. Don’t get me wrong HTML/JavaScript have come a long way and in many ways fulfills the need that once only Flash could fill.

I’m impressed with how far HTML and JavaScript have come but structurally it’s not meant to do the animations etc. that Flash is specifically designed for. For me it’s about picking the right tool for the job and there are many factors that go into that choice, but jumping on a bandwagon shouldn’t be one of them…but I digress.

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Pencil Vs Camera - 24It’s so easy in the world of technology and tight time frames to skip some seemingly tangential steps in order get the product or design out in time. Sometimes we just need to be reminded that we need to get back to the basics. I know that one thing that often gets skipped are the rough little sketches, Spyrestudios has done a nice write up to remind us of the benefits of sketching (and wireframes) in fleshing out ideas and saving time. It’s also a great way to look back and see the progress of ideas and inspire new ones.

A different way to look back and see how things progressed is BookTwo‘s 12 book collection displaying the changes to the “facts” of the Iraq War over the course of 5 years. The concept is simple enough, collect all the changes to the Wikipedia page on the Iraq War in one place. What it reveals is anything but simple, more of antithesis of the Orwellian nightmare 1984, where news/history was rewritten with no trace of what was.  Then again, out side of BookTwo’s project how many people are looking into trail of changes that make today’s truth.

Returning to the temporal life where now is everything, context-aware computers will be a welcomed addition to the ever growing overflow of information. For years this has been an “up and coming” technology, now (read: once again) the researchers at IBM (and many others) are hoping the power of smartphones will provide the always on, GPS info and increased processing needed to make context-aware computers a reality. What’s interesting about all this technology and it’s promise still echoes some of the thoughts of Marshall McLuhan and Norman Mailer from the late 60’s. Beyond theory and technical abilities data sensitivity will also have to be addressed before the masses should be adopting little brother to guide them through life.

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The value of ideas is one that seems to fluctuate depending on personal circumstance. If you’re the creator of the idea, then the idea is everything. If you’re the producer of ideas (production) then it’s the implementation of the idea that matters most. So which is it? As someone that straddles both sides it’s not any simpler to define. Like most things in life the truth lies in the gray area between the extremes. Recently, my buddy Arpit delivered his take on this topic and I think he’s on to something…iteration. A back and forth between pure concept and implementation. Love the connection to dogfighting as a example of idea->action proving iteration is the actual key to success (courtesy of Jeff Atwood’s own post on the subject).

Weekly Recap: Kinetic Type, Hearses and Change

While neither V for Vendetta or this kinetic typography are new, this animation was new to me this week. You can check out 14 additional kinetic typography pieces based on popular movies at Inspired Mag. Rocky and Nick the Greek were also contenders for this hero spot.

Also typography related is The Big Web Show’s episode 18 where they speak with Roger Black, co-founder of Webtype, an online font foundry that also hosts the fonts for use in your CSS3 based designs. Besides having some really nice fonts, I love their browse options.

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Google offers instant results because 2.5 seconds is too long for users to wait for results. It seems crazy that such a small amount of time would make a noticeable change in user behavior but Google has stats that prove it. Years ago it was based around the number of results to display based on the difference in milliseconds to return those results. Today (last week) Google added instant results to cut this number down even more. According to their blog post this could save the world 11 hours every second.

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Earlier this month Twitter posted stats on third party app usage and it showed that by-and-far most users use the Twitter website and mobile site, followed by Twitter’s own branded apps. The third party apps are only used by a small (but active) percentage of their users. This could be why Seemic, who just announced the launch of Seesmic Desktop 2 (SD2), is focusing increasing their support for additional web services (RSS, YouTube, Zappos). Some of this support is through their new plug-in architecture. For a quick overview check out TechCrunch’s coverage of the announcement.

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Big changes at Microsoft. Stephen Elop, President, Microsoft Business Division, has left the building to become CEO of Nokia. In an unrelated note, the Redmond campus celebrated the (manufacturing) release of Windows Phone 7 with some black humor, a hearse and a parade. And what parade would be complete without doing a scene from Thriller. Though I’ve been impressed with what I have seen of Windows Phone 7, it’s has a huge uphill battle to live up to the hype of this parade.

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UX Magazine had an interesting editorial on converting the URL bar into a form of navigation/breadcrumb system.  There are some good concepts behind the potential use of the very static and possibly foreign component included in every browser. Some things needed for this concept to become a reality is out side of the browser’s control, though you can see signs that the browsers are starting to go in this direction.  For example, in Google’s Chrome browser has implemented a system that bolds the domain and grays out the rest of the URL info. Though somewhat random when it occurs, Chrome also boxes out a website when you’re entering your search/URL. To see it in action type “google.com anyTerm,” it does this for other sites as well, but not always and I’m not sure why or when.

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Ending this weeks review with some fun. Take a bunch of animated GIF’s and synch them up with Girl Talk’s spliced samples and you have the making of an Internet Meme du jour…Cache Rules Everything Around Me by Evan Roth

Week in Links: Priorities, Mobile and Tactile

Google launches Inbox Priority, a new recommendation service for your inbox. For those that never get to inbox zero this maybe what you’ve been waiting for. And in typical Google fashion they introduce there latest product with an entertaining video (seen above). I have not had a chance to see this new feature in action yet but the folks over at TechCrunch give it a thumbs up. In addition to Inbox Prioritization Read Write Web suggests a few essential plug-ins to add to your Gmail. Rapportive, which was part of the Ycombinator event two weeks ago, was first on their list.

Apple released their latest iPods. The iPod Touch now features the iPhone 4’s retina display, dual cameras, HD video recording, Facetime, and iOS4.  Even the new Nano is sporting iOS and a touch screen. They also announced the new AppleTV which is super small and compete directly with Roku, Boxee and other internet enabled streaming devices. Engadget created a quick comparison chart comparing the competition. They also do a more in-depth comparison to the strategies of AppleTV and Google‘s. Ultimately, I think AppleTV’s biggest advantage is the simple streaming from your iPhone or iPad, more here. Lastly, they mentioned iOS4.1 will be out this week, and it supposedly fixes the issues with the iPhone 3G…oh it also adds video rental and Apple’s new Ping service.

Touch is the current hot technology and for good reason, it feels natural. Sony just announced they were adding touch to their eReaders and Amazon is working on doing the same with the Kindle. The NY Times talks of how prevalent touch is becoming, and how touch is becoming the key to selling gadgets. I may be in the minority but I’m not sure adding touch to the Kindle or an eReader is going to convince anyone they need it, though I do see it as a distinguishing factor when comparing features and potentially getting a consumer to go for the more expensive model.

The other hot technology is mobile. It’s growth factor has out paced any other technology, it’s the fastest growing platform for accessing the Internet and understandably so.  It’s with us everyday, everywhere. This Mobile Manifesto makes some solid points for why everyone needs to think about mobile users. Props to @juansanchez for passing that one along.

Virgin Mobile’s new MiFi is a must for anyone that is on the go or on a budget. Basically it’s a 3G receiver (via Sprint) and WiFi hotspot merged together that fits in your pocket. Now there are other MiFi’s out there but the unlimited data rate being offered by Virgin ($40/month) is what takes this over the top. Match the MiFi with Apple’s latest iTouch and Skype and you now have the least expensive iPhone on the market. Hopefully this will be the beginning of the end for $70+/month plans…though I’m not holding my breath.

Tweet of the week:

RT @infrastrukt: so T-Pain spent $500K on a 'Big Ass Chain' but only $500
for a new logo, on Crowdspring. http://bit.ly/aDps6o

…and of course there are over 100 entries.

Apple gets it right

News about Apple is every where today, as they are after all of their press conferences. Though today was supposed to be about their new line of iPods the real winner was the release of the new AppleTV. Oh, they also announced an update to iOS that should fix the horrible performance on iPhone 3G. The iPods were an evolutionary step, everything has touch, cool but not worthy of a repurchase. The AppleTV on the other hand is a brand new beast.

Even without plugging it in, at only 20% of the original size it’s clearly not the same device as it’s predecessor. Internal hard drive, gone. Instead everything streams to the device via WiFi leaving you with the device, a power cable and the HDMI to the TV. All pretty cool but not a whole lot different then Roku, Boxee or WD-TV. Also not too different is the ability to access Flickr, Netflix and YouTube.