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.
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.
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.
This week Facebook added a new feature, called Friendships, that allows you to see the activity between friends. For many this will be a great way to reminisce, and be a nice addition to Facebook’s features. On the other hand it’s a privacy nightmare scarier then a Halloween horror flick. How can this feature be bad…think of jealous partner, this feature could easily be miss used to stalk their mate and easily read into any/all cross communications they’ve had with others. To make matters worse, it shows you activity between someone you know and people they are friends with, even when you are not. I wouldn’t have such a complaint if it was just me and one of my friends, but the friend to friend and especially the friend to stranger friendships cross the (privacy) line for me. If it does for you, check out Opt Out of the FB Friendship Feature.
Personally I don’t participate in Foursquare, Gowalla or Facebook’s Places as they give me nothing I value in return for my participation. Though there are a number of crossover (online to local) services I do use like Groupon (and similar services), Yelp (for reviews) and Google’s mobile search. I also post my photos to Flickr and Pegshot with their location data turned on as location seems to be a vital part in the story that picture has to tell. More an more this cross over between the real world (local) our online one is going to become seamless. David Marcus’s editorial on TechCrunch talks about how these services need come together to really provide something useful in our day-to-day lives.
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Another buzz word these days is HTML5, this time it’s Microsoft that’s doing the talking. Seems as though Microsoft has decided to back off on the development of their Silverlight platform and focus on using HTML5 for creating online apps. This is a genius move on their part. HTML5 is the only cross platform supported technology. For those developing native mobile apps you’re now looking at supporting a growing number of iOS devices, all the flavors of Android (see more here), Symbian OS and now WinMo7. With WinMo7 being the newest of the group the quickest way to get developers to support your platform is for them to support all platforms. Joe Wilcox goes into greater detail about Microsoft’s David and Goliath strategy.
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We use our smartphones for just about everything filling it with tons of personal data but how often do we think about all that data and how secure it is. Last week there were postings on how simple it was to gain access to one’s contact list on a locked iPhone. So far Apple hasn’t acknowledged it but the method works and is simple enough for just about anyone to do. Sorry, intentionally not providing link.
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Zynga, the creators of FarmVille etc., are now worth more then EA, the second largest game publisher and makers of every sports franchise game there is. The reasons…virtual goods, lower overhead, and of course social networking. Still, both are smaller then Activision Blizzard but Zynga has only been around for four years, so who knows how long that will last. Get more of the details at Bloomberg Businessweek.
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.
With Surface, Zune HD, Bing…and now Windows 7 Mobile it seems that Microsoft has finally embraced the design/experience side of technology. While most people will never encounter a Surface device, at least not at it’s current state, this was a huge leap for Microsoft and human/computer interactions in general. For the most part it’s a living experiment of what the future may hold. The Zune HD and Windows 7 Mobile, on the other hand, are designed to be used by the masses, in the present and take their respective markets to a new level.
Inspired by the simplicity and universality of transportation graphics Microsoft calls there new design guidelines Metro. Beyond the name is the focus on creating a modern, stripped down, easy to navigate user interface based on common elements and typography. The use of typography as a key design element in the digital world is almost unheard of ; I would think design geeks should be overjoyed with this though I’ve barely seen any references to this from the general design world.
Along with typography here are a few of the highlights of Metro:
Based on transportation signage: simple, universal, easy to skim
General feel: Clean, light, open and fast
Experience: should lead the design
Consistent: common design treatments and transitions
Flexible: Inviting developers to personalize their use of the guidelines to allow them to make their apps unique yet consistent
User focused/Task focused: one primary action at a time
Panoramic: apps not locked to a single screen
Typography: as an element of beauty as well as to demonstrate hierarchy
Transitions: are as important as the static page. Guidlines request to keep them simple and related, noting “the more you use it (transitions) the less special it becomes”
Simplify, Simplify, Simplify: fierce reduction in unnecessary UI elements (chrome, non-related actions…)
Overall, I’m excited to see smart-phones continue their evolution and Metro looks to be a great step forward. It’s also nice to see Microsoft (or anyone) not play catch up by porting over the status quo, but rather innovating beyond it.
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.