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.
One of the big events of last week was Y Cominator‘s Demo Day where 30+ companies showed of their technology in hopes for securing additional funding. Last week’s Demo Day was so big it took 2 days, if you couldn’t be there TechCrunch gives a run down of a few of the presenters.
If you have Gmail, then you might want to check out Rapportive‘s browser plug-in. While viewing your email it’ll provide a sidebar full of the contact’s profile including various social services and CrunchBase. At the bottom of the sidebar is an area to add personal notes for the contact. It’s a simple addition but could be priceless once you start using it. For more see TechCrunch’s write up.
As a UX lead finding out how users are interacting with a design is invaluable. There are a number of new solutions out there providing inexpensive remote testing options. But eye tracking has required use of specialty equipment. Even though we have one where I work it’s a huge hassle and the whole process makes for a very artificial environment. GazeHawk‘s offering may change all that as it uses standard webcams. Additionally, offer a service to use their network of participants to test your work. For more see TechCrunch’s write up.
There was even stuff for the couch potato in all of us, Teevox showed off their iPhone app. It’s a remote control for watching Hulu and Netflix videos on your PC. The app’s UI is simple and straight forward and even better is there is nothing to install on your PC in order for it to work. I encountered a few crashes on my 3G, but that seems like standard behavior with iOS4, so I can’t fault them on that. Fore more see TechCrunch’s write up.
The merger of TV and PC is getting closer everyday. Working in the industry it’s all to clear where things are going so it was interesting to read TechCrunch’s somewhat harsh editorial on the full-on assault being staged against the cable companies. In the TechCrunch editorial they get the gist right but fails to keep in mind that not everyone is as technically inclined as the TechCrunch audience. With that in mind cable TV’s convenience, flexibility and overall simplicity (despite the poor UI of their set-top boxes) will keep it alive for years. They followed up the editorial with some put things into perspective for anyone outside the industry.
– – – – –
Ok, this one’s title alone made me laugh last week, Twitter’s not stupid – you just have boring friends. Andrew succinctly states for those that think “Twitter is inane, pointless, time-wasting or just narcissistic bleating only means either a) the people you’ve chosen to follow are the wrong ones; or b) you’re expecting something from Twitter it’s not offering: passive entertainment.” Still, Twitter isn’t for everyone.
– – – – –
The patent war continues. With the Oracle’s suit against Google people hypothesized that it was the patent war to end all patent wars…well last week Microsoft’s co-founder, Paul Allen (via Interval Licensing) launched his own patent lawsuit. The list of patent violators named in his company’s lawsuit covers just about every major web player out there sans Microsoft and Amazon, as noted in FastCompany’s coverage. On first blush the patents in dispute seem horribly vague and undeserved as Amazon’s “one-click” patent.
Other news that doesn’t include Google being sued for patent violations include their addition of Google Voice into Gmail. Though I’ve read that due to high demand there has been some issues with Voice, but I’m sure that will be address shortly. In the meantime, enjoy Google’s little promo video.
Speaking of too little, too late, MySpace is finally getting on the Facebook bandwagon with their new Facebook status syncing feature. Even though this is only the first version, it’s kind of funny that it only goes from MySpace to Facebook, which would require you to actually go to MySpace in the first place. Ironically, I went to MySpace for the first time in over 18 months in order to watch this video promoting their new profile editor. It features Steven Slater, JetBlue flight attendant that went off in a rage on a customer. It’s actually entertaining, smart and even makes a self deprecating reference to being dominated by the FB.
Maybe one of the biggest announcements of the week surround Facebook Places becoming a reality. Facebook held a live, streaming event to announce they were getting into the location check-in game. Rather then take on the two biggest social location services Facebook is actually working with Foursquare and Gowalla. They will soon have an API for other location services to use as well. Almost instantaneously there were people referencing FB as Stalker’s Paradise. Clearly with Places as an auto-opt-in service it could be yet another privacy concern. If you want to block your friends from being able to “place” you Bill Cammack entertainingly walks you through the steps. If you have the Facebook app for iPhone or use touch.facebook.com you can start using Places now.
Even before iOS4 came out and crippled my iPhone 3G, I’ve been leaning towards switching over to Android. Before I make the switch I’m bringing my 3G back to life by reverting it back to iOS3, here’s how. If you want an idea of what it’s like to switch, my buddy Arpit, wrote about his first month with Android covering some of the differences between the two platforms both as a user and a developer. A concern of many developers is if Android is a viable market place, Aaron La gives details on his experience with his Advanced Task Manager app. At $10,000 a month in supplemental income I’d say he’s doing pretty good.
Verizon has been having a good few weeks. More rumors about the iPhone coming out for the Verizon network, though I wouldn’t run to far with that one just yet. They did announce their new HD guide for FiOS subscribers. I don’t have FiOS but I’m glad to see one of the biggies pushing those Motorola boxes into the 21st century. The current set top box that powers America’s TVs features technology that’s nearly a decade old.
They also boasted about there upcoming iPad app that’s will work as a second screen as part of their TV Everywhere. They also talked about updating their VOD experience. Comcast and Time Warner are also working on iPad apps. Comcast showed their prototype earlier this Spring at the Cable show and Time Warner shows theirs in this YouTube clip. If you’re not up to speed on TV Everywhere check out GigaOm’s Everything You Need to Know About TV Everywhere.
Though not everything has gone as Verizon would like. Their new “rule the air” campaign is targeting women with the chance for equality, through Verizon of course. See the commercial and a great rant from TechCrunch’s Alexia Tsotsis.
In the most recent issue of Wired, they proclaimed that the web is dead. So of course the retorts started to follow, Boing Boing uses Wired’s own numbers to show that the Web is alive, well and growing nearly exponentially. Then again they said Print was dead, Rock was dead…Technologizer has a collection of the death of everything.
To end here’s a beautiful time-lapse video of the Perseid Meteor Showeras seen from Joshua Tree National Park and taken by Henry Jun Wah Lee .
Late last week there was an article via the NY Times asking “Could a deal between Verizon and Google destroy any chance for Net Neutrality”. Instead, Google and Verizon called for a press conference on Monday to explain what they’ve been working on. Based on Google’s (and Verizon) blog with their post titled “A joint policy proposal for an open Internet” they spell out that it’s quiet the contrary. Later in the week Google then countered the many concerns about Google selling out or undermining the system. The NY Times continues to question the proposal and “Who gets priority on the web?” What it all really means is yet to be seen but makes me wonder if this is a dig at Comcast and their win against net neutrality earlier this year.
Apple also had some patent fun this week when they published an exact copy of FutureTap’s Where To app inside one of their patents. Where To has been around since the first generation of iPhone. Apple and FutureTap have worked things out, mostly just a failure to credit rather then a stealing of ideas.
Every week I send out/post/share a number of links that I think are informative or sometimes just purely entertaining. This is my first attempt to collect them in one place. Hope you find something of worth and I welcome any comments, suggestions or links. Thanks.
Google is looking to get into the social web, they move their big idea gun Vic Gundotra from Android to all things social (Google Me) at the same time they decided to kill Google Wave, another of their social fails. Though, I believe Wave was more of a UI/workflow fail then a social failure, none the less Google has people talking. Om Malik breaks down Google’s social skills with a great analogy between cricket and baseball.
Meanwhile the current king of social media, Facebook gets some heat for their take on Yahoo! Answers, called Facebook | Questions. Based on the name alone, I’d say it’s a poor choice, who doesn’t prefer getting answers rather then more questions. Makes you question if even the mighty Mark Zuckerberg (and crew) understands his market. With that in mind here is a great rant/request for Facebook Dear Mark Zuckerberg: Ask the Question by Ellen (a Facebook user since 2007)(a Facebook user since 2007).
With App Inventor, Google has put the power into the people’s hands. One no longer needs to learn a complicated computer language in order to turn their idea into something real. This is a polar opposite to the approach Apple has taken with their most recent terms of service (v3.3.1), which made for many headlines on how they cut Flash from being a potential development platforms for the iPhone. Will App Inventor empower the masses or as Job’s stated (regarding flash based apps) flood the market with substandard applications?
More then likely there will be a hundreds of quickly put together dumb and/or kitschy apps. Ideally this is where Darwin’s laws of survival will come into play filtering out the deluge of iFart type applications. On the flip side, there will also be some quality apps that may not have seen the light of day if it weren’t for the reduced skill set needed to create them. In general, I see App Inventor being used by designers and developers to quickly prototype an idea before having it developed via traditional methods.
Regardless of how App Inventor is ultimately used, it’s the democratization of technology that is the game changer.
Smartphones are everywhere. The most popular being the Apple’s iPhone, which just released it’s latest version and sold around 1.7million in the first three days. One issue with the new iPhone is the reception should you hold it a certain way to which Steve Jobs suggests holding it differently. Regardless of how you hold it iPhone users and AT&T in general have been complaining about reception, dropped calls etc since the first iPhone was released. Being that AT&T is currently the only service provider for the iPhone in the States their network is being pushed beyond it’s limits. Anyone with AT&T in New York City or San Francisco Bay Area can probably go on a tare about how AT&T’s network sucks. I have no doubt that should Verizon have been the sole service provider they too would be feeling this network strain, but I digress.
To combat the network problems AT&T has come up with a solution…the AT&T 3G MicroCell™. It’s your own personal cell tower, allowing you to sit in your basement (or where ever) and still have a working phone. For anyone living in one of these soft spots in AT&T’s network this is a great workaround till AT&T upgrades their network with thousands of new cell towers.
The MicroCell serives is also great for AT&T, rather then having the expense of putting up another cell tower in your area you can do it for them. Even better, you have to pay them $150 to do so. There’s also an additional monthly fee if you’d like to have unlimited calling from your MicroCell otherwise the minutes used while connected to your personal cell tower still count against your monthly plan. Yes, that means (without the added plan) you’re paying for the minutes even though you are hosting the call through your own broadband connection.
If that wasn’t shady enough, even if you have the plan and you initiated a call on your MicroCell when you go outside your phone may switch back to the true AT&T network. Once back on AT&T’s network it won’t switch back to you MicroCell till the call is complete. So you’re back to your original lack of reception and since it doesn’t switch back to your MicroCell you’re (unknowingly) back to using your plans minutes.
You have to hand it to AT&T for turning there biggest thorn into a new revenue source. That is brilliant thinking. Steve Job’s righteous retort has nothing on AT&T’s brilliance with this solution. Sure charging for the hardware is somewhat understandable, but the true magic lies in the added fees and how the system always works to AT&T’s benefit.