Welcome to the 24th century

Welcome to the 24th century
Over the past 60 to 70 years humanity has leaped ahead technologically in what can only be described as a wild ride. The easiest way to notice this is to read science fiction books or watch an older TV series. Have you noticed how some of the advanced futuristic gadgets used seem like yesterday’s stuff? I’ve recently watched all of Star Trek TNG on Netflix with my son. This gave me the opportunity to observe more closely how things are portrayed on the show, from a 21st century perspective. I noticed, for example, how on an episode which showed their school, all the kids in class were using a tabled with the approximate size of an iPad mini. The same sort of device is presented all throughout the show, with people reading and making notes and complex calculations on them. Star Trek’s replicators have always seemed like a form of magic. Rearranging matter at a subatomic level to create whatever you want would certainly be amazing, but consider that with 3D printing we’ve already started down a path which will very soon allow you to, seemingly, create objects out of thin air. Not so long ago, when you wanted to watch some form of video entertainment you would sit in front of a bulky TV and flip through a TV guide to see what would be on, on which channel. Now, you connect your incredibly thin, but large screened, TV directly to Netflix, through the Internet and choose what you feel like watching. These changes have moved in on us, at an accelerated pace, though not all at once. We are so used to these novelties and have become so used to the incredible rhythm of innovation, that some things just pass us by. When you actually stop a moment and look around and really observe, you see that you are living in a world of wonders which we routinely take for granted. The greatest example of something amazing that we simply don’t even think about anymore has to be the smartphone. Think about it! Martin Cooper, who’s credited with creating the first mobile phone, has stated that he was inspired in his work, by watching Captain Kirk of the original Star Trek series talk on his communicator. Well, Captain Kirk’s communicator didn’t give him his precise position on the planet’s surface, the weather forecast or tell him how traffic was flowing on his way home. Most smartphones in the market today do all that and a lot more, such as allowing you to target green pigs with wingless birds that are propelled by a huge sling. I’m writing this on an iPad mini, and having the text automatically synced to my Mac through Apple’s iCloud. This little tablet weighs just a bit over 300 grams and probably has a couple of hundred times the raw computing power of my first PC. I routinely use the mini for all my email, most of my Web browsing and pretty much all of my reading. I really like paper books and the experience of going to a good bookshop to browse through the new titles. Still, I almost never buy a paper book for myself. Why? First because I haven’t got the space to store them. Second, because just about everything I want to read is available in digital form, which ends up being much more convenient to carry around. Actually, living in Rio and reading a lot of books in English, the digital option gives me instant access to titles which would only be available on local stores several weeks later. This instant access to all forms of content, books, music...
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Apple: To map or not to map – That was no question…

Apple: To map or not to map – That was no question…
Since the introduction of iOS 6 a lot has been written about Apple’s new Maps application which replaced the previous one which was based on the Google Maps service.  Most of what has been written has been in either in defense or condemnation of the application.  I won’t go into any of that now.  I’ll just stipulate that there are a lot of issues with the service, while probably not as many as some of it’s most ardent detractors would like us to think there are. I’d like to look at the Maps situation from Apple’s point of view for a minute.  When creating the original iPhone Apple entered a multiple year-long agreement with Google for use of their service as the basis of their Maps app and put their effort into creating a nice native interface for the service.  In the next couple of years, Google came out as Apple’s most direct adversary in the mobile OS arena and thus denied Apple access to new features which they were integrating in their competing mobile OS: Android.  Of most interest to Apple was the voice directions for getting from point A to point B. While Samsung and other handset makers are selling a large number of Android phones, iOS devices are certainly and incredibly large user base for the Google Maps service and as such its users contribute with a significant amount of information to its improvement.  Sending all this data in Google’s direction, instead of into Apple’s own system would continue to help its strongest competitor improve their service and continue to open the gap between what Apple could deliver and Google Maps.  With the switch to Apple’s own Maps service, all this user data is now headed into their system and they’ll be using it to improve the service and thus it will help close the gap with Google Maps.  At the same time, all this user data that is going to Apple is no longer available to Google which significantly impact their own data collection as iOS represents a very significant chunk of mobile devices. Apple might have decided to continue working to improve its own Maps service, as it seems that there was still a full year left in their agreement with Google, but it is quite possible, not to say probable that no amount of work they could put into the product would make as much difference as couple of months collecting real live data from users all over the world.  At that point, the question of if they should switch to their own service was already answered.   Making the switch well ahead of the end of the agreement had another possible benefit, they might catch Google unprepared as they seem to have done, in fact. If they switched at a moment when Google had its own iOS app ready for download right after Apple’s became the default one, many users might simply stick with Google as that was what they had already been using.  By making the switch early it is possible that by the time Google has its own iOS Maps app ready, Apple’s own app will have improved markedly and most users will have become used to it. Apple always strives to create great products, and some might question that by making this compromise, Apple has effectively compromised this ideal.  It might be a valid point, but regardless of the apology issued by Apple’s CEO, Tim Cook, I believe Apple sees the iPhone/iOS as a work continuously in progress and they’ve always considered that there would be an “adjustment” period before the current generation iOS and iPhone “matured” into a...
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iBooks 2 and the Apple Textbooks

iBooks 2 and the Apple Textbooks
I haven’t posted to iPadWatcher for a while, but the temptation was too much when two of my favorite subjects, the iPad and Books were so much in evidence as they were this week.  When Apple introduced version 2.0 of its iBooks application for for the iPad with new enhanced support for interactive textbooks, a lot of people had a lot to say about it. I was one of them, but I decided to hold out a bit and better digest the news, before I started to write about it. Lets’s start with what was announced, regarding books.  Apple introduced both a new version of its eBook reading application for the iPad and a specialized eBook creation application for the Mac. The combination of these applications produces some impressive results as can be seen in a seven minute video published by Apple. On the original iPad the new iBooks 2 application has a great tendency to crash when you are interacting with the “interactive parts” of the textbooks.  This happens so frequently as to almost render the new books unusable at all.  Hopefully this will get sorted out in a minor update released within the next couple of weeks.  As it stands iBooks 2 is most disappointing to a large part of the potential readers due to instability issues. I have had less opportunity to play around with the iBooks Author application on the Mac, it seems like a very interesting piece of software.  iBooks Author borrows heavily from the interface of Apple’s iWork applications and seems very intuitive to use.  Getting started with the process of creating a new eBook is very straight forward with the help of the supplied templates. iBooks Author has specific support for embedding Keynote presentations as a multimedia element embedded into the textbook as if it where a picture.  That is where the interactive part starts to come into play with the new textbooks proposed by Apple. While the application seems like a great way to create great looking eBooks, Apple has left some strings attached which diminish the general appeal to content creators in general: books created with iBooks Author can only be sold through Apple and for reading on Apple devices.   There is a technical limitation as Apple took some liberties in extending the proposed EPUB3 standard in order to achieve the desired results and because the software’s end-user license agreement specifically limit you in this fashion. While I can understand Apple not wanting to make free applications for consuming its content on competing devices, I feel that explicitly trying to block content creators from selling their content for consumption by users of other devices is a very backward way of doing business. One thing which is not clear to me, but Apple may already have made known is whether or not the file format specification used by these new enhanced books will be freely available so that third-party authoring tools can generate compatible content. I’m sure that there will be a lot of interest in this area. Some publisher interest as shown in the form of a handful of titles which are being made immediately available.  Interactive textbooks is an area which publishers might embrace more enthusiastically as producing one of them is a much more complex and multifaceted endeavor than write a regular book.  Most authors are not experienced or have the means to create sophisticated eye-catching 3D animations or great looking video clips.  This is a space where large corporations certainly enjoy the advantage against the self-publishing author. I have always been a huge believer in eBooks, having worked on creating reading and authoring tools for them...
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It took Gartner a while to figure it out…

A post about Gartner’s take on the tablet market and the iPad caught my eye today, on 9to5mac.com. It seems to have taken the folks at Gartner a good while to notice that it is really all in the software… While Android based tablets are considered to be expensive, the truth is that they are expensive for tablets that have very little software available.  After all, if Android and iOS applications ran the same applications, then having an Android tablet cost the same as an iPad would not be that bad for business.  It is bad for business because you pay pretty much the same, but get a device for which the number of interesting applications is way smaller. While this situation persists the decision to buy an iPad over an Android tablet will continue to be a no-brainer.  Apple’s easy to use iOS and the multitude of available software for the iPad ensures that users get a great experience from using the device.  An experience that is hard to reproduce in any Android device that I’ve seen so far....
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The Post Steve Jobs Apple

This week a lot of people were saddened by the news that Steve Jobs was resigning as Apple’s CEO.  For many years Jobs has been seen as an integral and fundamental part of Apple and its driving force. While it is certainly true that Jobs was responsible for Apple’s turn around, he did it with the help of a group of dedicated professionals.  These people, who have been working for years with Jobs are part of his most impressive creation: Apple itself.  Apple is a company that works differently from just about every other company in the planet.  That is not simply the result of one man’s actions, regardless of how brilliant the man in question is.  Apple has a culture all of its own which will not change, because Jobs is now Chairman of the Board instead of CEO. In the near and mid-term future we can expect Apple to continue releasing amazing products which build on the incredible success of its current lineup of products, while they continue to work in secrecy on the products that fit with what they believe the future should be like.  I remember commenting, a long time ago, that it wasn’t hard for Bill Gates to foretell the future, as he could help direct it.  That was never so true for Microsoft as it has become for Apple. Apple now defines not only what it will do, but what everybody else will try to imitate. This does not likely to change in the near future, as they work on the next generation iPad, while everybody else is still scrambling to catch up with the iPad...
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The iPhone, the iPad and the Mac

Last year, when OS X Lion was first demoed to the public, I commented on the influence of iOS and the iPad on the new version of the Mac’s operating system.  Now that Lion has been released, and most people have had a chance to at least look at it, there can be no denying this influence. Now we should consider why Apple has let so much of iOS seep into OS X.  Does any one think that it was just due to a sense that these related systems should have similar behaviors?  If you do, I have some nice real estate on Mars that I can sell you at a bargain price. For many consecutive quarters Apple has sold a growing number of Macs, to a growing audience.  Every quarter about half of Mac sales are to people who have never had a Mac before.  Now, where do these people come from?  Did they just wake up one day and consider that they might change their computers for a new one which doesn’t run the applications they’ve already purchased? At first, new Mac users came from the large pool of iPod users.  People who bought iPods for listening to music on the way to work or on the way to school and that were attracted by Apple’s design and simplicity. Then along came the iPhone and a new group of potential Mac buyers started to form. The iPhone’s success has certainly thrown Apple into the limelight and thus helped the company to expose even more people to its other products.  While this hasn’t resulted in an explosive growth in Mac sales, it has certainly helped Apple keep its sales growth. Next came the iPad and its explosive growth.  A new computer form factor was born and Apple has taken hold of a dominant position in this new market, dominating it. While, Apple admits that the iPad has eaten into potential Mac sales, it has certainly had a much deeper impact on sales of computers from other manufacturers.  In fact, Mac sales continued to increase this past quarter, despite the incredible number of iPads Apple sold. By making OS X share familiar interface elements with the iPad and the iPhone, Apple is making its computers more attractive to users of iDevices. Some have written about the possibility that Apple will introduce ARM based notebooks next year, moving desktop users to iOS.  I don’t believe that is what Apple plans to do. It is still going to be some time before ARM based processors reach the same level of performance you get from the current generation of Intel CPUs.  I don’t believe Apple would try to move Mac users to underpowered devices which would not be able to run the software they currently have. If we look at how the transition to Intel was handled, we’ll see that Apple transitioned users to the new computers without significant impact as the new hardware was able to run legacy application through their Rosetta translation technology. I believe we can expect a similar move to bring iOS applications to OS X.  This would make a lot more sense then moving Mac users to iOS.  OS X’s full screen mode would also be ideal to allow iPad applications to run in much the same way they do on the tablet, without even requiring them to fit into the Macs windowing system.  iPad applications would just naturally be run in full screen mode. When you consider how LaunchPad as the app selection interface, combined with the Mac App Store, the full screen mode and the new multi-touch gestures in OS X, the path to unification seems clear.  Apple...
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iCloud opens new possibilities for Apps

iCloud opens new possibilities for Apps
While there has been much commented on the introduction of Apple’s iCloud service, little has touched on its deeper implications.  Sure, iCloud is a replacement for MobileMe, and allows people to sync files between different devices, but what else does it do?  How is it different from MobileMe or other such services which are available from other companies? The most significant difference in iCloud is that it is being introduced not as a “drive” where you can save your files, but as a service accessible through a specific API, which will be present in every Mac, iPad and iPhone that upgrades to Mac OS 10.7 and iOS 5.  This service will be active by default, since it will be free and used by most, if not all of Apple’s own applications. The fact that you don’t have to specifically signup for the service and that you can use it extensively  without incurring charges will ensure that it will be used by most owners of Apple equipment.   This universally available online storage service changes the equation for iOS and Mac developers in a most significant way: they don’t need to implement “sync” services anymore. Through the use of iCloud it should be possible to keep data properly in sync between your Mac, iPad and iPhone without the need for the developer of the app you are using having to maintain a server and storage to hold the information that has to be synched. Developers will only need to worry about maintaining their own servers if they want to provide a Web interface to the data.  Otherwise, it will just be  matter of taking advantage of the iCloud service to keep data synched between the versions of the applications that run on each device. This facility should lower the bar even more for small companies or single developer outfits to bring interesting applications to market that allow for easy, if not totally transparent integration of Macs and iOS devices....
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Apple announces volume App sales for business

Apple has just announced that will introduce volume business sales to the App Store.  The announcement was made directly to developers and was not yet available on Apple’s website at the time of this writing. This initiative will probably receive a warm welcome from iOS App developers as it will make it a lot easier for businesses to acquire applications for a wide base of corporate users. Even more welcome will probably be the possibility having volume B2B sales of custom-made applications.  This development will make it easier for companies to place orders for specialized applications which will be tailored to their needs and will not be generally available on the App Store. These initiatives will probably help Apple to get a deeper, faster penetration into the corporate world with the...
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How the iPad spoils us for other computers

I do a lot of my reading on the iPad through applications such as Flipboard, Zite and Instapaper.  These applications provide an easy way for you to keep up with your regular news and blog reading, without having to navigate to all the sites individually.  These applications also allow you to share whatever you are reading through a variety of means. My personal favorites for sharing content are email and Twitter. While I tend to email articles directly to just a couple of close friends, I do so quite frequently.  Twitter is also a great means of sharing interesting news and articles, but with a lot of people at once, and the ease with which you can avail yourself of these mechanisms on the iPad has really hooked me. In order to get a closer experience when using a Mac, I customized Safari and added the “Mail” button to the toolbar.  While this makes it possible for me to share information as easily as I do on the iPad, while browsing, doesn’t feel quite as natural.  This is probably because Safari is one of the applications I least use on my iPad as the other content centric apps I mentioned allow you to view the full online version of  the articles without ever leaving them. Most iPad applications seem to have information sharing and bookmarking as a normal function, while on the desktop (including notebooks) things seem a lot less “connected”.   This might just be due to the origin of most iPad applications, which come mostly from developers which started out creating apps for the iPhone. Whatever the reason that led iPad apps to embrace sharing, it has become a feature that I expect and which deeply miss when I’m working on another computer.  I’m eager to see if future updates to OS X and Mac apps will add increased support for information sharing and social tools integration....
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iCloud: Apple’s shot across Google’s bow

iCloud: Apple’s shot across Google’s bow
This Monday Apple delivered a clear shot across Google’s bow: iCloud.  Apple’s new service, announced today, demote’s the Web browser back to the status of a simple application.   In replacing MobileMe with iCloud, Apple has done away with the Web-based interface for accessing your information online. All changes to your information are handled through the native applications, with all devices getting the changes almost immediately. The most amazing thing is that they really seem to have managed to make it all “just happen”.  (Actual hands-on testing pending…) You could be on a trip to a conference such as WWDC’11  and take some time to do some site seeing around the bay area.  As you take pictures with your iPhone they not only get sent to your MacBook and iPad, but to your home computer where the family can follow your exploration in near real-time.  The service, as shown, is of such complete simplicity that most people’s grandmothers could probably use it. During his presentation Jobs was quite direct in pointing out that the service was not only free but it also had no ads. You couldn’t take a more direct jab at Google that makes just about all of its revenue from online advertising. Apple sold 25 million iPads in the first 14 months of sales. While most iPad users do spend time browsing the Web, they spend a lot of time inside native applications, of which over 90.000 are already available on the App Store.  With applications for magazines, newspapers and even for looking up information on Wikipedia, the number of times you actually have to go into the browser has gone down drastically. While the Web is not going to go away any time soon, Apple is doing its best to pass on the idea that “the cloud” is where your information is stored in order to be retrieved by great looking native applications.  With this you get functionality and performance without having to use browser-based applications which are made to “imitate” the native experience. Google moved onto Apple’s turf with Android and Chrome.  Now it seems that Apple might actually be ready to take the fight back to Google’s side of the...
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The iPad 2 sells out on the first day in Brazil

This past Friday, May 27th, the iPad 2 went on sale in Brazil.  While there weren’t many long lines of people waiting to buy their iPad as soon as the shops opened, it still pretty much sold out on the first day. Store representatives were unanimous in reporting that the 64GB 3G model was the one with most demand, but at the end of the day few stores had any model still available.  These same representatives were also mostly in agreement in stating that Apple made available a smaller supply of devices than when the first generation iPad was introduced in the country in November of 2010....
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Apple reports record numbers for the quarter

Apple reports record numbers for the quarter
During its scheduled quarterly earnings call, yesterday, Apple executives reported record numbers for revenue and profits.  Revenue for the quarter was $24.67 billion while profits came in at $5.99 billion, a growth of 85% over the year ago quarter. These numbers are the result of exceptionally high iPhone sales, with over 18 million iPhones sold in the quarter and a much smaller number of iPads sold than almost everyone was expecting.  Apple reported sales of only 4.69 million iPads in the quarter.  This number seems to be directly related to a constraint in production of the new iPad 2,  rather than to lack of demand as anyone who’s tried to get one recently can probably attest. Demand for iPad 2 seems to continue to be very high with Apple selling just about any they can...
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RIM Playbook and screwed up ideas

I had heard rumors that Research in Motion’s Playbook tablet would not have its own email and calendar client applications.  That you would need to have a Blackberry connected to it so that you could access these services.  This seemed just too screwy an idea to be true. It turns out that someone at Research in Motion didn’t think that this was so screwy and decided that it might be a good way to sell both a tablet and a smartphone.  Well, I’ve got news for these folks but this is a totally screwed up idea. I don’t really see that many people, but extremely hardcore Blackberry users will be interested in paying the price of a full-blown tablet such as the iPad for a device that turns out to be an accessory to my...
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An iPad 2 production line is being setup in Brazil

Rumors have been floating around for some time about the possibility of some Apple products being assembled in Brazil.  These rumors got a lot more substance today as one of the two largest newspapers in the country published an article stating that components where already being shipped to the location of a Foxconn factory in the Brazilian state of São Paulo.  This facility currently produces computers and other types of electronic equipment for HP and Sony. If this rumor turns out to really be true it should drive down the price of the iPad in Brazil by a large  factor.  Such a reduction would almost immediately result in increased sales as the current high price of the device acts as deterrent to lower-income users making a choice between getting a netbook and an iPad. Currently, a first generation 16GB WiFi iPad is being sold in Brazil for around $820.  The fiscal incentives offered to electronics manufacturers that handle final assembly in the country and the reclassification of the iPad as PC by the Brazilian federal government could result in as much as a 40% reduction in the price of the iPad for the Brazilian consumer. With Apple selling iPads just about as fast as they can manufacture them, it would make a lot of sense for Foxcomm, that does the actual manufacturing, to expand production to more of their factories.  Brazilian billionaire Eike Batista, who currently figures as the 8th richest person on the planet according to Forbes, is known to have been actively working to persuade Foxcomm to seek Apple’s agreement to start production of Apple products in Brazil....
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Apple’s developer conference sells out in 10 hours

Apple’s developer conference sells out in 10 hours
Apple announced its 2011 developer’s conference this morning and before the end of the day it had already sold out. This year’s conference will have 5000 attendees. Many corporate developers will be left out of this conference because it sold out before they had the chance to secure approval to attend. While I was expecting that the conference would sell out quickly, it never occurred to me that it could happen so quickly. Just this afternoon I told a friend that he should register soon as it would probably sell out in a couple of days. Well, he won’t be going this...
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