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.
Mashable reported that RIM Has Sold Just 490,000 PlayBooks in the device’s first quarter compared to 9.25 million iPads sold over the same period. It’s a shame because as a UX designer I love the PlayBook, still a lack apps is a user experience that will trump the user interface every time. Which is why I have an iPad not a PlayBook myself. This is the same problem Microsoft is having with WP7. Both platforms made great strides in out doing Apple but not enough to lure people from the real draw of iOS…the apps. Ironically despite all the press about Apple’s great designs it’s the millions of apps not built by Apple that people really want.
All this reminds me of the QWERTY keyboard. When it came out it was well designed (to not jam up your typewriter), it became the de facto standard and when designs that improved typing speed were released they gained no traction despite the better design. QWERTY already won the numbers game. It had the critical mass required to steam roll over better designs and with each success competing with it became that much harder.
For that reason alone I hope these sales numbers doesn’t have RIM running for the hill to drop the PlayBook like HP did a few weeks ago. If they do, at least Android or iOS 6 can incorporate some of the better features into their platforms as imitation is the greatest form of flattery and an industry standard.
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).
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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.
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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.
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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.
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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).
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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.
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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.
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).
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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.
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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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Not sure how many people have seen this months The New Yorker magazine’s cover (shown on right). What looks like a water color painting is really an illustration created on his iPhone. The app is called Brushes along with a companion app that will provide an animation/video of the process. The New Yorker’s blog offers more details and a video of the illustration being made using the companion app.
I never had a reason to go to Gatorade‘s website before but the link was sent to me from a designer friend of mine (Neuarmy). Once going there it was obvious as to why he shared it. Sporting the new aesthetic of the Gatorade “G” the site takes it to another level of sophistication rather then pure simplification. It’s an all Flash site boasting lots of black, simplified layouts, vibrant images and large video headers. Navigation is through the use of large black and white silhouettes for both the products and the athletes. Which acts as a great accent to a highlighted item and it’s inline videos. While you may learn more then you ever needed to about Gatorade check out the site for a great sample of extending a brand’s aesthetic across media.
Another gem sent my way from Neuarmy is by Boone Oakley and their use of YouTube for their website. Ok, so it sounds a bit like Skittles attempt to use Web 2.0 tools to stitch together a web experience…well this isn’t that. It’s literally their website embedded in humorous and (a touch) twisted little videos. Very innovative use of such a common medium and a great way for them to show off their conceptual/strategic muscle. They also feature some great work from that last few years, I’m sure you’ll recognize a few. Well worth checking out.
Once again Apple has paired up with the New York Times to create an ad users actually want to see. This time it’s for a homepage integration/takeover featuring multiple ads all working in unison. Similar to Apple’s TV ads, this site integration features John Hodgman (PC) and Justin Long (MAC) talking about their differences. In this case John is commenting on the results of a Forrester Research poll, shown in the ad space above theirs, when two characters from yet another ad space join in on the conversation. Before they start talking they seemed to fade into the pages background drawing little to no attention. When the main ad is complete the two secondary ads fade to an unobtrusive white panel with a floating Apple logo. Allowing those that keep the NY Times open all day (to see news updates) not to be barraged with Apple, Apple, Apple.
Though this isn’t the first time for Apple it’s still worthy of the viral attention is getting/has gotten. It’s cleanly designed and executed. Continues the sense of humor that has made these ads a hit for the last few years. Makes great use of its environment. It may only run a single day but I’m sure both parties make out as winners each time they meet.
Once again Apple has produced an ad that almost becomes part of the page. I have to give credit to Apple’s ad team for continually producing ads that people want to watch just to enjoy the ad. Their campaigns are generally catchy, original, play well with others and clearly carries the Apple brand experience. Apple has done a site take-over before previous with the New York Times and was a huge hit. This time they put their sites on Pitchfork.com, for the launch of Pitchfork’s redesigned site, integrating their iPod Touch video with Pitchfork’s site navigation. Below is a video of it for all that missed it (stutters were from my system not the ad itself).