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Why Safari and iWork have Not Been Updated

Mobile Safari > SafariI read M. G. Seigler’s piece on why Safari hasn’t skyrocketed like Chrome and it helped me realize why Apple’s products like Safari, iWork and their professional apps have been neglected. It all comes down to How Apple deals with things it does not value any longer. Products like Xserve, the iPod Classic, and others have been discontinued or severely neglected. This is because once Apple decides it wants to move on, it cuts off the resources it puts into that product. Take iWork, Apple is pushing the iPad as the forerunner of the post-PC era, so why pour resources into iWork for Mac if you are trying to (slowly) remove the Mac from the equation? iWork for Macs last received a major update in early 2009, iWork for iPad has received four major updates since it launched with the iPad in early 2010 and one of those updates also brought iWork to iPhone and iPod touch. Safari was last updated to support OS X Lion and a few small features like Reading List, much in the same way as iWork was updated with iCloud support, but nothing else. Safari on iOS however, received several features with the advent of iOS 5 with the Reader view, tabbed browsing on iPad, and Reading List support. Mobile Safari has also gotten attention in previous software updates like iOS 4.3, bringing JavaScript Nitro and better AirPlay support.

Clearly, Apple is not improving on its desktop products as much as its mobile ones. Apple does this because it sees iOS devices as the future and rather than dumping its resources into the waste bin of the past (cough cough Windows and OS X) it puts its resources into the garden of the future. (iOS devices) In the future, expect more of the same. Expect Apple to vigorously iterate on its mobile software, and expect OS X and Windows software to suffer as a result of growing neglect. It may seem like a bad idea for Apple to do something like this, but when mobile devices overtake PCs, Apple’s iteration on mobile software will have paid off.

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iCloud’s Importance

Like many of you, I unboxed an iPad this Christmas. After using the iPad for a few hours I picked up the box, fascinated by how tightly everything in the box fit together. As I set the box down, it noticed that on the bottom edge of the box was an iCloud logo, just opposite of the side on which the Apple logo rested. Everyone knows how sparsely Apple decorates their products, so why would they put an iCloud logo on the box? Only if it was extremely important. More important than iOS 5, the A5 processor, FaceTime, iMessage, iTunes, or the App Store. Apple didn’t put logos for any of those things on the box of the iPad, no, it put the iCloud logo and nothing else.

So, why is iCloud so important to Apple? Is it because it syncs everything? No. iCloud is so important because it not only syncs your content, but it provides the stepping stone to the continuous client experience that has become the pinnacle of usability. Continuous client, if you don’t know, is simply the ability to stop reading a book or watching a movie or playing a game or doing anything, and picking up where you left off on another device. This is something Apple has the unique ability to do better than anyone else because its devices are so popular and Apple’s famous “closed” ecosystem allow it to spread iCloud’s adoption faster than anyone else.

iCloud can help Apple make the transition to PC-free iOS devices. This is important because Apple is moving the world beyond PCs and iCloud is now the forerunner of this transition. This is only the first of many transitions that will be made in the future and iCloud can help people make these transitions easily and painlessly.

iCloud will gain more features in the future, and it also provides a stairway right up to cloud-based apps and even devices when the time is right. iCloud could make transitions to, say, HTML 5 based apps and devices seamless because rather than having to plug-in to iTunes and backup, then plugin your new device and sync for an hour, you can have not even left the Apple Store with you new phone and your apps can be downloading in your pocket from a cloud-based backup. This gives Apple the ability to drastically alter the architecture of iOS in the future and keep the transition experience for customers a good one.

This is why iCloud is so important to Apple, it is the new iTunes, the tool that they will use to make transitions buttery-smooth, and it provides the foundation for continuous-client experiences.

Inverse Relationship

The smaller the world gets, the farther apart we are

The world is shrinking. As the lyrics to It’s a Small World become prevalent in our culture, we seek out ways to connect with friends and family across the globe or simply across the street. People have always sought out better ways to communicate, faster, farther, and more effectively. Today, this has not slowed down a bit with the introduction of social networking that lets us communicate across the globe with close friends, or complete strangers.

To start things out, it would be helpful to preface this with a short history of how humans have communicated. It all started when humans learned to speak with one another. Later, traders established a written language so people could communicate without being in each other’s presence. Things really started to take off in the mid eighteen hundreds with the invention of the telegraph. In 1875, the first phone call was made. Fast forward over 130 years. Today, many forms of communication exist, most of them electronic. Social technologies such as video calls, texting, Facebook, all help us communicate with one another.  Social networks are one of the most popular forms of communication, allowing you to share your life online with other people. Video calling is an up-and-coming form of communication that is much like I phone call, save that you are watching a live video feed of their face as you speak with them.

Most people would agree that social networking and other technologies can help to build a relationship with other people. The disagreement comes when you ask whether or not social networking can replace physical communication. Social networking does not replace physical relationships.

Do social networks really help us connect with one another? Good relationships can only be created, improved, and maintained in real life. Unfortunately today, we are blinded by the rote idea that some website can improve our relationships with real people. However, this belief has been repeated so often that we have come to accept it as truth. Starting a friendship on Facebook is not a good way to meet someone for the first time. Imagine that someone has accepted your friend request on Facebook. Is your first move really to send them a message introducing yourself as someone who has seen them or just knows who they are? Obviously, this is not a way to start a successful relationship. Another issue with online relationships is consistency. When you see a friend, you usually see them at a certain time and place regularly, otherwise you don’t have consistent contact with that person. Facebook and video chat do not fill the void left by not seeing a person on a regular basis. First, Facebook can’t be a full relationship. Virtually looking over a person’s shoulder and commenting on what they do does not fulfill what is needed to form a relationship. Second, Facebook shares all your actions on certain sites, and the number of such sites is increasing. All this does is make the influx of information coming in more meaningless. Before, someone would have to specifically click a “Like” button or share something. This made it so that you had to at least have some liking for the song or other content you were sharing. Now it is meaningless, you could see that a friend listened to two albums on Spotify, that gives me very little useful information in deciding to listen to music because I have no idea if my friend even enjoyed listening to these songs. Now, video chat. Video chatting is handy, certainly, but when you receive a video chat the person essentially enters your world uninvited. Remember that we are used, as people, to see others in regular fashion.

Some people say that social networking really helps others connect with old friends, but this does not work in practice. Whenever someone moves away, the fact that there is no longer the regular, physical communication effectively kills the relationship. Having a time when you usually see someone, whether you like it or not is invaluable to relationships. The issue with social networking and other technology is that you have to remember to call or communicate in some way with that person.

In conclusion, many people have failed to recognize how social technologies have affected our lives.  Many more have failed to recognize that their relationships are not being sustained by some website alone. Relationships require a real life component to be sustained. Social networks and other forms of electronic communications aren’t all bad; they have their place. Their place is as a supplement to the communication that is already happening in real life.

Nokia’s Unimpressive Comeback

In recent years, namely those since the iPhone, Nokia has slowly fallen out of favor and lost market share. When Stephen Elop, Nokia’s CEO announced their switch to Windows Phone, there was hope.

Nokia’s mentality behind their switch from MeeGo to Windows Phone was that they made great hardware, but the software, MeeGo, was holding them back. So they announced their switch to Windows Phone (a very solid platform.) Unfortunately, shortly after they announced this switch, the software was improved and it shipped on the Nokia N9. This created a quite bit of sympathy for the MeeGo platform. Nokia had worked itself into a sort of corner with many people still liking its older platform, but at the same time it was committed to moving to the Windows Phone platform.

So Nokia had a rare chance to start anew, with a brand new platform, a refreshed user experience, and a potential for bringing its brand back to the forefront. So what did Nokia do? It released the Lumia 800, an N9 running Windows Phone. This phone did not even live up to the expectations set by other leading Windows Phones. In addition, the Lumia 800 does not have any of the software tweaks that Nokia promised for its Windows Phones. In essence, it feels outdated at launch; a phone that is only a stop-gap solution.

In short, Nokia had a chance, and they blew it.

Not all hope is lost for Nokia, they will still make great hardware, and one day they will go on to improve the Windows Phone 7 OS on their devices. Unfortunately, you only get one shot at a first impression and Nokia did not use it wisely.

Social: Done Right

Today, social is taking over the world. However, there is a problem, some companies have trouble getting sharing right. Some startups define sharing as a “Like” button, but others have decided “social” is sharing everything. This is not “social,” this is annoying. At this point distraction sets in and users are overwhelmed by the amount of information shared. But there is a light at the end of the tunnel, people want social applications and websites, but they don’t want to be overwhelmed. It is possible to create good experiences through Twitter, Facebook, and even Google+ so long as it is done without distracting, annoying, or underwhelming to the user.

Social is not an easy thing to “get” and having several tries before it sticks is not unusual for a startup. Social is not about the “Like” button at the bottom of a webpage, it  is not whether Twitter is better or not than Facebook. Social is about sharing and connecting with other people to create a better experience. People have said that social does not benefit technology and human connections, but that is debatable. Although few have done it, it is possible to build good social experiences.

Sharing is not by necessity a bad thing, it can be done correctly, in an unobtrusive manner, and truly enhance relationships and connections. “Getting” social is not easy and is hard to do, but when done correctly it can enhance user engagement and lead to very fun, exciting connections. To do social correctly, the first rule is to not annoy the user. If the user is too distracted or becomes confused and overwhelmed by the amount of information shown, it is not likely they will enjoy the experience. For example, imagine a book or movie where unnecessary information, characters, and dialogue is introduced (such as Lord of the Rings). The story can become convoluted and unpleasant, even distracting. Sharing can be helpful, even enlightening. When the information is displayed is relevant and wanted by the user, a social element is very useful. However, this is not always the case, for example some sites display a “Like” button. This is useful if you want to receive updates on Facebook for the site, but below the “Like” button lie ten profile pictures of random people who have liked the page, with some preference being given to friends. Seeing ten strangers’ face on a page is not “social,” it is distracting and does not benefit the experience of the site. Social experiences can also be valuable if they are done with privacy that is understandable to the user. People naturally do not share everything with everyone. In face to face conversation it is simple to tell who you are sharing the conversation with. However, online it becomes much harder to tell who you are sharing with. Some services, such as Twitter, have done this by sharing everything with everyone, thus having no privacy concerns. Others like Facebook and Google+ have made friend lists and circles, so you can share with only a certain group of people. This approach is confusing because you do not always know what people are in a certain group. In any case, social can be done well, despite what some people may say.

Social websites and apps are not without their detractors, as Andrew Keen writes for Wired UK, “The truth is that we aren’t naturally social beings. Instead, as [the artist] Vermeer reminds us in [the painting] The Woman in Blue, human happiness is really about being left alone.” Keen says that social networks are by its very nature anti-privacy and therefore we sacrifice a fundamental part of our humanity. However, he fails to mention that although we feel the need to be left alone, we also feel the basic need to share with others. It used to happen around campfires, people would share stories, tell others how the day’s hunt had gone and, on occasion, perhaps a member of another village would describe events at his home village. The need to share is in our DNA just as much as our need to be alone. As Laura June from The Verge says, “We need to be alone, and we need to share. But those things — sharing and being alone — can almost never happen simultaneously. Nor should they.” I would add that the only time you share while being alone is when you are talking to yourself. Not all types of sharing are useful. Facebook announced last Thursday at F8 that they would replace the current sharing dialogues with “frictionless sharing.” This is means that when before the change you would be prompted to share a song or news story, now it will be posted to your Timeline instantly. While this seems neat in some ways, it creates more friction, a new friction, “brain friction” so to speak. Instead of friction between your finger and trackpad every time you would post something to the social network, you will instead have brain friction, a nagging feeling in your head of whether you really want this song posted to your Timeline. As I said before, people want to share, but they also sometimes want to keep things private. There can be a happy medium between the two.

This war will determine the future of technology, and personal privacy. As one person or even a group of people it is nearly impossible to do anything about it because this war is being fought by several large, monolithic companies. It is not necessarily an unhealthy war either. Social can be done well and it can add to the user experience. The key thing to remember is why a company is adding social features. If it is doing it to make more money it almost certainly fail. If it is doing it primarily for the benefit of the user then it has potential to take off. The world’s best companies had vision, no money, and were not trying to make any, and when it came time to make money they did so without sacrificing the user experience.

(Image Credit: Paul Butler)

Google buys Motorola

Assuming both European and U.S. regulators approve the deal, Google will buy Motorola Mobility at 60% of the stock price at the time of the deal ($40). What does this mean for Motorola, Google, and the rest of the industry?

For Motorola: Google says Motorola will continue to operate as a separate wing of Google. So in short, nothing will change… or so Google says, but what about Motoblur (or whatever Moto wants it to be called)? Will Google let a company it owns fragment and skin its operating system? Can Google really stay out of Motorola’s business? The search giant has not given a great answer for these questions leaving us wondering about Motorola’s future.

For Google: Google says that the Motorola acquisition is all about patents, patents to defend Android which has come under fire through recent patent attacks. Google’s Nexus program? Google says that Motorola will have to bid just like any other hardware maker. Also, and most importantly, is that Google says they will not do what Apple does or HP did. Google is either smart enough to realize that competing with their partners is a no-win scenario or they simply feel better leaving Motorola alone because they just bought it for its patents.

For the industry: To all who are engaged in legal action against Android, watch out. Soon Google’s patent arsenal will be comparable to other players and people will hopefully cut it out with the lawsuits. For anyone else, including investors, it doesn’t mean much. Google has a track record of buying companies and leaving them alone, for better or for worse. Take for example Blogger, what has Google done to integrate this service? When was the last huge change to Blogger? It’s not so bad for Blogger, just not good either. Unless you never look at your URL bar you probably noticed that this is a WordPress blog. When starting this I looked at other services, Blogger included and found that WordPress was the best that suited my needs. One of the reasons? WordPress is being actively improved. Blogger? Not so much.

Apple TV update allows TV show streaming

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In today’s update to the Apple TV set-top box Apple added streaming of purchased (in addition to rented) TV shows, along with Vimeo support and the all-too-usual bug fixes. I would like to take a minute and point out what Apple is doing here with this update.

As Techcrunch notes in this article Today’s Apple TV update added the feature to stream your purchased shows off Apple’s servers to your Apple TV. This is a partial reversal in strategy on Apple’s part after deals to allow 99¢ rental of shows have presumably fell through for the time being. On iTunes you can also re-download purchased shows. Now say I have a season pass to Glee, (who doesn’t, right?)^1 I can now see the latest episode without having to download it to my computer then stream it to my Apple TV over my home WiFi. This marks another step towards Apple’s attempt to take the loving room. They seem to be seizing on Logitech’s admitted Google TV failure (Logitech had more returns than sales of the Revue in Q1). Apple’s next step is clear, allow customers to re-download and stream movies. The only question I have now is when will Apple release an ATV with an A5 processor that cranks out 1080p video? Chime in on the comments and say when you think Apple will release a new Apple TV.

^1 I don’t have a Glee season pass, my proposed situation was purely hypothetical.

OS X Lion, the iOS-ification of OS X.

Apple has said in no unclear terms that it is bringing some of the best features of iOS to OS X Lion in what is probably the largest user-facing change in the OS to date.

After using Lion for about a week now, I can say with confidence that it has changed the way I use my Mac. Swiping between full-screen apps and desktops feels like the future. Gestures, which I don’t think are too complicated by the way, add to the feeling that everything is front of you is very real. But this is not a review. Apple made a move I want to make very clear. The Mac no longer comes first for Apple. iOS has had multi-touch gestures, full screen apps and an App Store far before the Mac, and this is just the start. The iPod Touch and the iPhone both got Retina Displays before the Macs will. (Support for Retina Display quality graphics were found in Lion.) Apple will of course continue bringing iOS features to the Mac and the Mac will continue to be a revenue source for Apple, but it is no longer their main priority. When was the last time you saw a Mac ad on TV? How about an iPad ad? Also, remember the quote that got all the press back at WWDC? “We’re living in a post-PC world.” Scott Forstall said that. The Mac is a PC, but of course Scott would have never said that. Imagine, “We are living in a post-Mac world.” just after the OS X Lion announcement?

Apple has made it clear (but not too clear) that the Mac is no longer first, from words like “demote” and “post-PC”. With the Mac now second on Apple’s list at least Apple is living in a post-PC world. And they are pushing us that way with every product they make.

Do you think this is the case? Speak up in the comments below!

I Swear This Will Pay Off

Google’s newest move into social, Google+, came with a remarkably well designed interface. Although there are still plenty of gripes about the social network itself I am going to pay attention to what Google is doing here with their interface. Google is known for their utilitarian interfaces and that is what people have come to expect from Google. However, with Google+, they also previewed a new Gmail interface that is similarly well designed (in my opinion). Google also launched a sleek black bar at the top of all Google properties, you know the on it has links to most of Google’s services, and called it the Sandbar. I have never been much of a fan of Google’s design choices, until now.

Google has wised up and realized that one way it has let things slip in its battle against Apple is in design. Apple is known for its well thought-out interfaces and minimalist design. Google at some point realized that they needed to compete with Apple on this (If they were competing before they just sucked at it). I feel now Google has finally grown up and noticed that function is not to be enjoyed without beauty. I believe that we will now see Google go though all its services and spruce them up the way it has with Gmail. The design also complements the stock Android Gingerbread interface much in the same way that iOS complements Lion and Windows Phone 7 complements Windows 8. Not many will notice the similarities between Google’s new look and Android, partly because of Android skins and also because they are less pronounced than their competitors’ similarities.

All said, I believe this is a turning point for Google, a well-received social strategy and a design that people will notice looks nice. Both of these things will play a role in Google’s future developments.

This Sounds Familiar

The HP TouchPad was reviewed on several sites last week. And one thing rang clear: the TouchPad’s software, and to some extent, hardware were half-baked. The OS, webOS, was laggy and some important features, such as threaded emails, were missing. This sounds familiar. A couple of weeks ago Apple released Final Cut Pro X (say ten). The software, although not laggy was missing some important features that nearly all pro editors need in an editing software.

I can’t stress enough how important it is to have a fully baked product. Having a completed, polished product at launch is making an important first impression. First, those darn bloggers get their hands on the product. They will influence the original bent, positive or negative, that customers have before getting their hands on a product in-store. Next, after a customer has heard about the product online or on TV, they go to the store and try the product if they can. This is when it is most essential, in my opinion, to have a polished product. People can ignore bloggers, commercials are so heavily glossed they are not reliable, and once a customer has purchased a product the company has already won, whether the customer enjoys the product or not. When a customer walks into the store, the manufacturer has one minute at best to wow the customer. The customer needs to be delighted while they lazily tap and swipe the glass screen. If the customer sees any lag or hesitation during their minute with the product what are they to assume about the rest of the product that they hadn’t seen? This is one reason why the iPad, iPhone, and iPod are so successful, they are fully-baked products from the get-go. If the TouchPad had spent one month, just one month, longer in development and HP stomped out some of the bugs, imagine how great of an impression that it could have made. The HP TouchPad could have been the first real iPad challenger. HP had a shot, took it, and missed.

Final Cut Pro X was a total rewrite of the industry-standard Final Cut Pro 7. During this rewrite some important pro features were lost in the transition. Apple has said that these will all return in future updates, however this means that professional users cannot use this software as much as they would like to, cannot use it at all, or have to find alternate ways to do a previously trivial task. Although I think what Apple did with FCP X took some serious guts they should have spent a month or two more adding those features to the software or, if necessary, continued selling Final Cut 7 to professionals who need those features that didn’t make the final cut. (John Gruber thinks so too) I think Apple should have known better and, like HP, the best option was to spend a few extra weeks in fully fleshing out and trimming their product.

A little more work On both these products could have gone a long way.