The Xbox community is pretty rabid and many use the service for way more than just gaming. As such Microsoft just released an app for iOS devices to give access to your account from anywhere. Not only does it increase the value of having a XBox account they slyly put WindowsPhone 7 on your iPhone.
The app itself is build using the Metro framework but it also includes the default nav bar from their OS. So visually other than the status bar at the top of the screen you’re in WP7 land. What a way to introduce the masses to WP7 without them having to give up their iPhones in the process.
Outside the visuals, the app is pretty impressive. From the animated avatar that reacts to your actions (shake phone, poke, etc.), to full access to your account including messaging and setting of beacons. Beacons on their own are a brilliant move, but together Microsoft has a killer marketing tool disguised as an app that you’ll want to use.
No one can deny Steve Jobs did great things for Apple. Not only was he a founder, but he brought them focus and drive to create some of the most beloved/mimicked products to come out in the last few years (read: decade). Still, Jobs wasn’t living in a vacuum and as much as Apple innovated things they also took the best features from what was already out in the market.
So when I read about Jobs vent about his deep anger with Google (or his personal vendetta against Adobe) it makes Jobs look more of a petty, spoiled boy throwing a tantrum rather then the visionary we all respect him for. And it’s true in many ways Jobs was a spoiled brat with a giant frail ego, but his personality short comings are less memorable then his contributions and I hope in memory it’ll stay that way.
With all the hype and speculation surrounding the iPhone being released for Verizon and today being the launch day for Window Phone 7 in the US…Samsung and Verizon steal the limelight with releasing the new “dual-screen” Continuum. It’s actually one screen, divided into two parts via the default Android buttons. It’s not a half bad idea, especially the stealing the lime light part. Interestingly enough Verizon has once again added Microsoft’s Bing search tool to the Android based phone (read: Google).
Also cutting into Microsoft’s big day was an announcement that Gingerbread, the next version of the Android operating system, would be available to Nexus One owners in the next few days. The best part was that this announcement came in the form of a Twee at.
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Last week Blekko, a new search engine was launched. Co-created by Rich Skrenta, who also founded the Open Directory Project back in the 90’s. With a quest to “clean up the web” from garbage content, Blekko filters out content farm content as well as allowing you to filter the results through the query string itself. I gave it a few tries. It’s clean and seemed to do what they suggest. Check out the NY Times if you want to know more about the history and how to get the most from Blekko.
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This should be entertaining for anyone in technology that saw the Social Network or knows someone that has.
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.
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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.
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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.
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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.
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.
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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.
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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.
Apple’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.
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It’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).
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.
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 section 3.3.1 of the iPhone SDK terms of service agreement Apple has once again ruffled the feathers of those that support them. 3.3.1 mandates that no intermediary language can be used in the creation of iPhone/iPad applications. Steve Job’s suggests that this to maintain quality control, but technically that’s what the App Store review process is for. Personally I think “quality control” is just a cover up for marketing insecurities. My buddy Arpit captures this point with a touch of humor
“He really should go and look at the crap apps that currently flood the apple app store, so much so that Apple has started to remove apps with “limited functionality” and “objectionable content”. But hey, iFart is still one of the top sellers but at least it was done in Objective C. “.
Since the release of 3.3.1, the bloggosphere has been flooded with people’s opinions and there is no need to reiterate these points. One of the best reads on the subject comes from The Tao Effect, as it covers both Steve’s responses and makes some solid points on the subject. And others are reminded of the 80’s when Apple (under Steve Jobs) followed a similar path with the desktop market only to watch the market be completely overtaken by windows/intel based computers. TechCrunch waxes more deeply on this subject. One thing I haven’t seen referenced yet is the history of the game consoles and how closed/”locked-in” system worked or better failed to work.
If you look at the gaming console market you can see how “locked-in” versus cross-platform support plays a bigger role in the success of the console then the hardware or even market dominance. When Microsoft entered the market Sony’s PS2 and Nintendo were the dominant players. And Microsoft had zero clout in the gaming world, especially against Nintendo, Sega and PlayStation. But what Microsoft did have was a way game developers could code the game once and get it on both the new XBox console as well as millions of PC. Fast forward to today and XBox is now the platform of choice to gamers the world over despite the PS3’s better graphics and hardware. Why?
Because it’s the games that draw the users just like it’s the apps that make the iPhone what it is. Sure the iPhone revolutionized smart-phones and is the current market leader, still there are more non-iPhone smart-phones everyday. With Android being offered free to phone manufacturers it’s sure to increase market share despite anything Apple does. As developers start realizing they can reach a larger audience (make more money) by developing cross-phone applications the iPhone will start to feel the pain Sony felt with the PS3.
As a customer I want to get the most for my money, currently that’s an iPhone, but when my contract is up and I’m looking at the next few years will the iPhone continue to offer me the best deal? Based on moves like section 3.3.1 the iPhone’s future just got a little dimmer.