October 2010
Sun Mon Tue Wed Thu Fri Sat
« Sep   Nov »
 12
3456789
10111213141516
17181920212223
24252627282930
31  

Month October 2010

Weekly Rewind: Toys, Gadgets and Talk

Apple steals the headlines again. This time with their relaunch of the MacBook Air. Though the first MacBook Air wasn’t a big win in the sales department it did test the waters of the uni-body design that became part of the entire MacBook Family. This time around Apple is trying out a new idea, no internal drives. At 64GB of internal storage the low-end model (11″) is clearly targeting the netbook crowd. While the 13″ comes in 128GB & 256GB flavors, which are much more manageable in today’s world of digital everything. The flash only memory allows “instant on” and sleep/hibernate to be one and the same providing 30 days of stand-by life. The other upgrade was the resolution of the monitors, both models get Apple’s new higher density screens giving each one step up in the resolution game (1366×768, 1440×900 respectively).

- – - – -

After mailing over 2 billion disks Netflix announced they are now primarily a streaming media service. In simple terms this means they are now providing more content via streaming then they do via DVD/Blu-ray discs and will soon offer a streaming only plan to US customers. Their Canadian service is already streaming only and with the growth of Apple TV, Google TV and smart TVs the demand for streaming only will only get stronger. Keeping in step with improving their streaming service they’ve also gone disk free on the Wii & PS3 (Xbox to follow in Q1) a simple addition to an already great product. For the Wii there’s a bit of a UI upgrade offering search. I can’t say I noticed any difference but I may have had a newer version of the disk based version that had this already. For the PS3 you also get 1080p and 5.1 surround sound.

- – - – -

Windows Mobile 7 went live last week and picked up a number of good reviews in the process. Engadget goes pretty in depth with their review covering everything from the basic UI to the camera to the Zune/Xbox integration. I have to say it’s great to see Microsoft, or anyone for that matter, work on a unique solution rather then just playing the “me too” game. The core UI hasn’t changed much since they announced their Metro guidelines back in April. From everything I’ve seen WInMo7 is attempting to take mobile smart phones to the next level. The question is whether the masses will flock to WinMo or did that window already pass Microsoft by? If nothing else, I can see Android developers incorporating some of the new thinking that went into WinMo as the two battle Apple for the top.

- – - – -

There are some things that though we learn and it makes sense, people seem to need to be remind of them time and time again. Flowtown has a great infographic about the value of keeping an existing customer. And though some of the facts contained in their poster are well known it seems that big companies still reward the new customer over the old. Just about every cell phone service service, gym etc all give deep discounts to lure customers but do little to encourage the current customers from jumping for a competitor’s deal.

Another example of things we know but need to be reminded of is Jeremy Toeman’s editorial about the future of connected TV is not about the apps. It’s about the experience and apps are just a tool in providing those experiences. To sell those TVs you’ll need to entice and connect with the people through stories rather then just a list of apps.

- – - – -

Two weeks ago Google launches Google TV, this week ABC, CBS, Hulu and supposedly NBC have all decided to block their content. It’s not a technical limitation but a licensing one. Having worked at Comcast for the last few years I’ve seen licensing get in the way of progress more then once. In the case of Google TV the networks are suggesting that web content displayed on a TV is different then web content displayed on your monitor. I find this logic to be a bit of a stretch and stinks of desperation. Regardless of my opinion Google is in talks with all the networks in order to remedy things.  Though I doubt Google will be able to make any headway with Hulu, besides being direct competitors, Hulu wants to push their Hulu Plus service (currently $9.99/month).

- – - – -

With all the talk about smart TV’s, Apple TV, Google TV, Boxee, Ruko, blah, blah blah. I’m pretty sure the average American glazes over when they start hearing about all the latest gadgets and the tech talk that surrounds them. While many Americans will buy one of these, as the real goal is to get their favorite TV shows and movies onto their TV’s in the simplest and cheapest way possible. Simply put, when it comes to vegging out we’re lazy. As it stands now Cable has the convenience thing down. While the internet has the best pricing plan (for most it’s free). So while each of the many connected devices and services battle it out the Internet already what the people are looking for. HTML, Flash, Silverlight and it’s accessible everywhere.  Pretty sure this was part of Google’s thinking with their Google TV bringing the web to your TV. Well, Andrew Baron is suggesting The Future Of TV Is HTML and he makes a strong case for his logic.

- – - – -

The end of an era , as Sony announced that they will stop manufacturing their iconic Walkman. I can still remember my first Walkman and it coming everywhere with me. Then I upgraded to the Sports model.  It was big, clunky and yellow with high-tech features like auto-reverse. Though that one didn’t last long as it’s bright yellow attracted a few school mates to free it from my locker while I was in class.  It’s replacement took me through the dawning of the MP3 player. I even sold my Rio 64 because it couldn’t compete with the simple convenience of the portable cassette player. That was until the iPod came along. Last year there, for the Walkman’s 30th anniversary BBC magazine gave a 13yr old the original Walkman for a week. Not only was it entertaining, but some great insights into how much technology is integrated into our lives even while it’s so transient.

And now for a moment of silence for the Walkman.

Weekly Rewind: Viral Gamification

The battle for the mobile space is fierce as ever and according to Adobe’s recent survey users prefer a the mobile web for shopping and media rather then downloading apps. Though the same survey showed for single goal oriented tasks (social media, games, etc.) apps were preferred. Hopefully this will help guide companies into making decisions on where and how best to reach their customer’s needs. See the press release for more stats from the survey.

If you looking to get out there an promote your product/site you have a few options for building up the buzz, and SocialTwist’s new report on viral stats may be a good place to start. According to the report 55% of referrals come via email, 24% from social media and 18% through IM. Though that’s not the whole story, when it comes to click-throughs Social is king with 60%, followed by email’s 31%. Twitter is earning around 19 clicks per link, to Facebook’s 2.9 clicks per link. Lastly sharing is dominated by Facebook at 78%. What does all this mean? Each service has it’s strengths and to maximize your viral potential you’ll need to work them all.

Want more numbers…well Tweetdeck’s got you covered. They looked at the Android ecosystem to see product penetrations and found over 500 different phone models and around 120 different OS versions.  On one side it shows how fragmented the Android market is, on the other it shows how well Android handles that fragmentation. Feels like history repeating itself (Windows/Mac).

- – - – -

Search gets social as Facebook goes with Bing as it’s search partner. According to Yusuf Mehdi, a senior vice president for online business at Microsoft, Bing’s results will soon be biased by the number of “likes” a link has received from your Facebook friends. It’s not a surprise that Facebook didn’t team up with Google as they are reportedly working on their own social platform. Though Mark Zuckerberg points out that with Bing being the underdog they are going to work harder, innovate more. He expands on this point in the Q&A event post the announcement. The New York Times also points out that Places uses Bing’s maps rather then Google’s as well.

- – - – -

Cupertino must be celebrating after winning a patent on the “pinch-to-zoom” gesture. Though the patent is very specific and doesn’t pertain to all pinch-to-zoom gestures only those that are followed by an additional gesture to continue the zooming (figure 4A in the patent application). Still this is one more weapon in Apple’s legal arsenal…along with the 17 other patents they were awarded on Oct 12.

Apple is already suing HTC over 20 patents that according to Apple the manufacturer is infringing upon. As of this week, HTC is no longer alone in this fight. Motorola has decided to back HTC in this fight and is pushing for the entire suit to be thrown out of court on the basis that they are invalid. Separately, Motorola is suing Apple over patent infringements of their own.

Aside from the patent wars there is a growing number of designers/developers questioning the app craze in favor of web-based solutions that work across all the platforms. Zeldman, a constant advocate for standards, offers a succinct argument that the iPad has become the new Flash. Personally, I don’t think he’s too far off the mark but not only from the coding aspect but as far as UI’s. Just like with Flash there are many iPad designs based solely on showing off this, that or the other thing rather then providing a good, easy to use UI. Ultimately, it was the show-off designs and poor user experience that became the poster boy for the anti-Flash community. Sure it’s not a open standard, but it is a standard that is supported by 96+% of the users out there. Every tool has it’s purpose just like the iPad and platform specific apps have there place.

One thing not to be missed from Zeldman’s editorial is the link to LukeW’s Touch Gesture Reference Guide.

- – - – -

Who doesn’t like to play games now every once and a while? Since everyone likes games adding game elements to your site is the latest/greatest way to build synergies with your customer/user and solves just about every business ask. So next time you’re solutioning a business problem think about tossing a progress bar in there.

Ok, so that’s not really a good idea after all, but I’m sure it’ll come up just like all the other buzzwords. When it does offer to take a breather and play a few rounds of Progress Wars. Adding game mechanics to your site is more complicated then offering badges and progress bars. My buddy @Arpit recently posted his notes on Game Mechanics, a collection of links, books and a great SlideShare (Pawned. Gamification and its Discontents) on the subject. One great item from Pawned is “Games are not fun because they’re games, but when they are well-designed.” So what Is Gamification? @Adachen gives an excellent breakdown of the different types of games and how they are being used.

- – - – -

  • What is BLADE? It’s a new anti-maleware app that blocks websites from launching their services just by you visiting their page. BLADE will be a must have for any Windows user (once it’s released). I know once it’s available I’ll be installing it on my mom’s computer ASAP.
  • Calling themselves the Internet DVR is a bit of a stretch, but if you like YouTube videos enough to want to keep them Dirpy maybe for you.
  • Love Flickr but don’t have the time to explore all it’s goodness then check out Flickr for busy people.

Week in Links: Facebook Groups, Windows Mobile and Google TV

The Social Network still commands the box office but that’s not the only reason Facebook is toping the list this week. Earlier this week they announced they were adding Groups, a tool to download your data, and tighter privacy control over apps.

The idea of groups isn’t anything new but unlike Yahoo or Google’s offerings this one is connected through Facebook. And though this is an obvious fact, this little factor is a huge differentiating point between the services. With the other group services you would have to go out of your way in order to participate. It wasn’t part of most users daily routine and slowly but surely members would trickle away beginning the group’s downward spiral into obscurity. Facebook on the other hand is where the people already are. It’s simple, integrated and most importantly it’s where your friends are, so there is no searching for emails or additional sign-ups needed to get started. Additionally their new groups feature provides a way to control who sees what. This alone is a huge step forward for Facebook and for those that could really use some discretion. See the SNL skit above for an entertaining example of this problem.

The second new feature is less of a dramatic but another big step forward in Facebook privacy.  Granted downloading all your activity, photos and posts doesn’t increase your privacy but it does provide a window into all the information Facebook does have on you and may change how much info you post in the future.  I don’t see many people making use of this feature anytime soon, but should a new social service spring up the ability to import some of this data may give that service a pretty big jump start. Also related to privacy and controlling your data is Facebook’s new application dashboard. The new dashboard provides users the ability to see and limit what applications have access to and what they’ve accesses last. Now you can see if Farmville is going to market with your personal data.

In a related note, according to a recent study of 10 modern countries most children will have an online footprint by the age of 2, this includes baby photos. The study was conducted by AVG, a security firm that deals with identity theft. The firm suggest people be more cautious when posting information online and to make use of available privacy settings.

- – - – -

Also high on the pop culture meter is Gap’s crappy new logo (shown on left). It doesn’t take an art/design major to see how big of a step bag this is from their earlier logos. The only positive thing I can say about it is it’s generating a ton of promotion. My favorite quote regarding the new logo comes from Brand New, a design blog, “I’m not one to critique something by saying it looks as if it were done in Microsoft Word but this one is just too unsophisticated to warrant anything more than that.” Can’t get enough of the new logo, check out craplogo.me to make your own Gap inspired logo.

- – - – -

Even on the eve of Microsoft’s release of Windows Phone 7 the Android platform is dominating the mobile press. Even without the skyrocketing success of Android (top selling smartphone in the US – GigaOm), Microsoft has their work cut out for them if they want to be a player in the mobile market. Newsweek did an extended article on the Android and how it came to be. One interesting factoid in the article was how Google has made enough on mobile search to pay for the development of the Android OS.  So sometimes giving something away is a great way to make money. Also, by Google making Android free, handset manufacturers are more apt to a device to support it as the reduced cost means more profit for them.

On Monday (10-11-2010), Microsoft unveiled 10 devices that support WP7 to the masses and from the early reviews they’re a competitive option. Wp7 is a complete overhaul of their mobile platform and is based on their Metro UI guidelines which influenced this year’s youth targeted Kin, which died a quick death. Hopefully WP7 won’t suffer the same fate. Though I haven’t gotten to play with a device personally, it offers a new paradigm for mobile UI’s that has me intrigued. The bright, flat colors aren’t my favorite, but the split structure of the main desktop, the transitions, the use of type in the design are all unique…but are they enough? Will they resonate with consumers? Working against them is the success of both iOS and Android, while the current lack of a Verizon or Sprint based phone means they’ll still be pushing Android as the ultimate mobile platform to their customers. Top that with confirmation that there will be a Verizon iPhone in early 2011. For more details on the WP7 launch check out Engadget’s WP7 launch guide.

- – - – -

Apple seems to be in everyone’s sights, with Android and WP7 going after the iPhone. Now the big wigs are Microsoft and Adobe are meeting though what’s to come of the talks is still unknown. And Google just launched the website for their Google TV, that competes with the AppleTV. Like many of the set-top boxes they support Netflix, Flickr, YouTube etc., but what new is that there’s a full featured web browser (including Flash 10.1 support), so theoretically it supports any online service. Though surfing the web on your TV has never been a hit, so Google is requesting sites to make a “lean back” version, which YouTube has had in Beta for some time. Some of Google TV’s big wins include: Android OS based, use of your phone as a remote control, surf-and-browse (a P-i-P of web and video), personalization, and a playlist feature that works across various video sites. Not sure what the price tag is looking like, but I assume it’ll land in the vicinity of the AppleTV, if not the war may already be lost. The potential $400 referenced in Engadget’s guide to Google TV seems excessive, especially with Xbox, Playstation and mini PC’s are all cheaper and do more.

Week in Links: Land Grabs, New Territories and Stats

The big news of last week was AOL buying Techcrunch. I first read it on GigaOm and it was followed up with a ton of tweets in the morning once it went public at Techcrunch’s Disrupt event. Less shocking they also bought Brizzly and 5min, picking up all three for @ $100 million. The funniest tweet I read about the purchase “TechCrunch: The sound you hear when you break those AOL CDs you got in the mail.” Hopefully this doesn’t mean the beginning of the end for Techcrunch.

- – - – -

After the new AppleTV was announced the other set-top devices will need to increase their offerings if they want to compete. Last week Roku and TiVo announced they would be supporting Hulu Plus, a premium subscription service for $9.99 a month. There has already been support for Netflix, also subscription based ($8.99+) which provides instant streaming of content across multiple platforms. So why Hulu? Hulu Plus has the latest TV shows while Netflix covers the back catalog. It won’t be long before Hulu Plus makes it’s way to the other internet connected devices but for now it’s Roku and TiVo which isn’t a bad place to start. Personally, I think Hulu Plus is a step back for the consumer. As Hulu Plus expands what’s available for Hulu’s ad supported content will shrink. Especially when the Plus still comes with ads.

Then there’s Google TV, who launched their website on Monday and officially throwing their hat into the ring. Some of the big features include a full web browser, ability to show TV and web at the same time (PiP), “Fling” from your phone to your TV, and expandability via the Android app marketplace. Below is Google’s promo video giving a quick walk-through of it’s features. If you’re looking to figure out which set-top device is for you check out this comparison chart.

- – - – -

After looking at the newTwitter via my coworkers and screen shots, I finally got to play with the newTwitter myself. It’s a much improved experience, it rivals that of some third party apps though it’s not enough to make me switch. Other then bringing the web app back to the web, the newTwitter is smartly designed. With relevant info displayed directly next to the content it relates to. One complaint is conversation view as it only shows one step of the conversation at a time and requires you to keep clicking in order to read the entire thing. Another is it took me forever to find the URL to a specific status (it’s the publish date). There’s keyboard shortcuts that is a huge perk for power users. One thing I didn’t know was that it’s design is based on the Golden Ratio.

- – - – -

Interesting data coming out of LukeW’s Data Mondays, this time around it was about the disproportionate activity that comes from iPhones. With only 4% of the global market the iPhone is 33% of the world’s mobile browser activity. See these and more on his post. Though I’m sure Android will start sharing some of this traffic as it’s market share grows. T-Mobile will be annoncing their G2 phone and Samsung’s Galaxy line is already wooing people. If you’re looking for an Android phone Gizmodo has a quick flow chart to help you figure out which one is right for you.