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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’s in-app subscriptions could be better

Apple has finally introduced the in-app subscription service that has been long rumored. Subscriptions created through this service will incur the same 30% fee that Apple charges for other in-app purchases or sales of apps in the App Store. While the 30% fee makes a lot of sense for the app sales made through the App Store as Apple is effectively acting as both distributor and reseller, such a charge just for handling the order processing for content providers seems a bit too steep.  When Apple makes a sale through the App Store, it handles the hosting and bandwidth for the downloads in addition to providing the storefront. When users purchase content through an in-app purchase they don’t really download the content from Apple, but from the content provider.  This being the case it would probably be reasonable to expect that Apple would charge a smaller fee since it doesn’t have to handle the hosting and bandwidth costs and is only involved in handling the financial transaction. As Apple does provide what we might consider the services which allow the creation of what are essentially in-app storefronts it is also reasonable to expect that they would charge more than credit card processing fees as well. A more reasonable compromise for handing content sales might be a 10% charge, for example.  Such a charge would allow Apple to turn a profit from these services, without making iOS devices nonviable for content resellers such as Amazon.  You have to wonder if Apple really expects Amazon to turn over all or almost all its margin for sales to iOS device users or if they want to force such companies out of the Apple ecosystem. Personally I haven’t purchased any eBooks for Amazon in the months I’ve had my iPad.  All the eBooks I have on the device were purchased from the publisher or through an independent reseller.  Still, I would not like to see Amazon go away.  Diversity is very important and only makes the whole ecosystem that much more...
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iA Writer for iPad is on sale for $0.99

iA Writer for iPad is on sale for $0.99
I just discovered that the excellent iA Writer app for the iPad is on sale for just $0.99.  I’m not sure of just how long this sale will last, so if you are interested in writing on your iPad, you should check it out on the AppStore.  This application is a great option for taking notes or working on any text while on the go. iA Writer has a focus mode which dims out all text outside of a one line radius around the cursor position.  This is intended to allow the writer to focus on what he/she is currently writing without the temptation to review other parts of the text.  This is one of the apps that I keep on the first page of my iPad and it has served me well so...
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After an update, The Daily app is working better

After an update, The Daily app is working better
After an update, released last night, the app for “The Daily” is working much better.  It is in fact “working” on my iPad, which is a nice change.  Before the update, attempting to open the app resulted in a long wait on a black screen, followed by a long wait on a screen which indicated that a new issue was being downloaded, followed by a crash. After deleting the old app (as recommended on the App Store) and downloading the update I was able to open the app and download current issue, without any trouble.  The start up of the application was much faster also, without the prolonged wait in a black screen. During a quick read of a couple of articles I didn’t notice any major changes in the application’s functionality, but the fact that it isn’t crashing anymore will allow me to judge the publication based on its content over the next couple of days to decide if I’ll become a subscriber.  With the app working I’m inclined to subscribe if just to see how it evolves over the next several months. The fact that the newspaper app had such serious issues when it came out and that they seem to have been fixed within a week suggests that the release was rushed to meet a particular...
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Dropbox – Access and share files from your iPad

Dropbox – Access and share files from your iPad
If  you use your iPad for doing serious work you might be interested in the Dropbox application.  You can use this App with the a service from Dropbox that allows you to store up to 2 GB on the cloud with no cost or considerably more data at a monthly cost. The Dropbox App syncs with the online service allowing you to cache some content locally and allowing you to control the contents of your cloud storage from your iPad. The free client application allows you to visualize PDFs, text files and images without the need of any additional Apps. While you don’t really need any additional Apps to make good use of Dropbox, you can get more value of the service if you combine it with one or more of a whole crop of Apps that integrate with the service. Text editors in special have been quickly adopting the Dropbox as a way to conveniently share documents between desktops, notebooks and iPads.   I’m currently experimenting with three text editing applications which can use Dropbox to store or backup your documents: Manuscript, PlainText and iA Writer.  These Apps are very different one from another, but all share the ability of letting you save your data on the Dropbox online storage. If you liked this article, please take a moment to follow iPadWatcher on...
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In a busy day Apple updates all iWork Apps and Filemaker Go for the iPad

In a busy day of application releases both Apple and its subsidiary Filemaker released new versions of their main productivity applications for the iPad.   The updates to the iWork applications seem to be focusing on the main complaints from early adopters such as the inability of having objects grouped and the inability to export the documents in a Microsoft Office compatible format. Both Keynote and Numbers were updated with the ability to export documents in formats compatible with Microsoft’s Powerpoint and Excel applications.  These updates should help make the iPad even more useful as a business user’s mobile computer of choice. The Pages application was also updated as to fix a big issue for users that create larger, more complex documents.  The new version now correctly supports footnotes, endnotes, sections and tables of contents. The fact that more elaborate documents would loose such content when opened in the iPad version of Pages was relegating the application to a being a slightly enriched text editor, as many users avoided doing work on larger documents. As for Filemaker Go, the major new feature is the enhancement to the ways in which you can send data to other users.  You can now email PDF reports or entire databases directly from one iPad to another. Considering that the iPad has been on sale for just about six months, the level of sophistication of the productivity applications available for the device is quite impressive.  Continued enhancement to these applications should help Apple continue to sell iPads as fast as they can make them. If you liked this article, please take a moment to follow iPadWatcher on...
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The iPad is about to steamroll into the Enterprise

The iPad is about to steamroll into the Enterprise
Since the iPad was originally introduced people have been buying it for an amazing assortment of tasks.  While no one has been talking much about its penetration in the Enterprise it is getting to a point where it can’t be dismissed or ignored. Just recently I’ve been to a significant number of meetings where one, two or more of the participants were using an iPad to take notes or look up information.   A quick chat with some of the other participants revealed that several of them are heave iPad users at home but haven’t yet decided to bring it into the office as they prefer to stick to their company issued computers. The big question is how long will it be before an iPad becomes a company issued computer?  The BBC has already started a trial of the iPad as an all around computer replacement, for certain tasks.  The company’s CIO was quick to grasp that for some specific occupations it is a great tool.  A clear example of such an occupation is technical support. The people that are responsible for providing technical support of just about any type spend a  large slice of their time moving around in the office or other company premises and having a 700 grams, instant on computer that can access the company’s system’s through a regular wi-fi connection of through a VPN over 3G is clearly a great advantage.   The same applicability seems to have been clear to most health professionals, almost from day one. With the release of iOS 4.2 for iPad in November, Apple will be adding a feature to the iPad which is specially interesting for business users: the ability to print directly from the device.  This is something that a lot of people have been asking for a long time.  Coupled with the ability to better manage the applications on the device and the ability to quickly switch tasks this will make the iPad even more attractive as an all around desktop or notebook computer replacement. Just how good is an iPad as a general computer replacement?  Obviously it depends a lot on what you do with most of your time on a computer.   In my case I moved most of my activities to the iPad.  I use it for 90% of my browsing, 90% of my email and Twitter and pretty much 100% of my Facebook usage.  When don’t I use the iPad for email and Twitter?  When I’m already using another computer to accomplish a task I haven’t moved to the iPad yet, such as writing blog posts. Make no mistake, I do all the reading, research and notes for the blog posts on the iPad, but I prefer to use my MacBook to sit down and actually write my posts and for doing all my image handling. I haven’t yet used the iPad to create a presentation, but I have used it to share some slides with one or two people. While I still wouldn’t recommend the iPad as anyone’s single computer, specially as Apple goes out of its way to tie it up to a regular computer and iTunes, I consider it the best option for carrying around with you all day, going into meeting and moving around the office.  I also think it is the  best computer to carry on short trips. I have surprised my self with just how many PDF’s I’m actually reading instead of just saving them for reading at a future opportunity that never comes.  Being able to read the PDFs while just sitting on the sofa or reclining in bed without the weight and heat of...
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Taking notes on your iPad with Chapters

Since the iPad was first introduced people have been fascinated by the possibility of using them for taking notes.  The size and weight of the iPad makes it a great option for carrying around the office and into meetings.  Personally, I’ve always been interested in this aspect of the iPad and when I ran across a note taking application called Chapters I was immediately interested  in testing. Chapters seems specially well suited for taking notes for which a chronology is important.  The application gives special attention to the date in which a note is created and they are listed in chronological order.  This can be quite interesting for class notes or for short notes on specific projects.  When you first enter Chapters you are greeted to a view of a white notebook cover (or covers once you’ve created a few of your own). You can create different notebooks for storing notes on different projects or different classes.  When you go into a notebook you are shown a list of notes in chronological order and the view of the first note in the notebook. When you hold your iPad in portrait mode Chapters focuses on the currently selected note, hiding the index of the current notebook.  You can add images to your notes from your photo library.  This allows you to add diagrams or photos to notes when appropriate.   Chapters focus being on taking notes, not creating fancy documents, so it doesn’t have sophisticated text formatting options.  This doesn’t detract from the application’s stated goal.  I found that this little application is actually quite handy for storing and sorting notes. You can check out Chapters on the iTunes online store where it is available for $3.99. UPDATE: An application update released right after this post had been written added the capability of exporting your notes to PDF format.  This same update also improved the responsiveness of the notebook selection view when you swipe  to browse the available selection.   This view seemed to have a problem when you used your finger in certain areas of the screen.  During my testing this issue had not really presented itself. If you liked this article, please take a moment to follow iPadWatcher on...
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Sketching interfaces on the iPad with iMockups

Sketching interfaces on the iPad with iMockups
An application called iMockups came recently to my attention as I was going over the drawing and diagramming tools available for the iPad.  This is an interesting application that is designed to let you quickly create sketches of interfaces for Web, iPhone and iPad applications. While I hadn’t really considered it before, the iPad does seem like a good option for conducting a one on one session for doing an early application sketch along with an application user.  In fact Endloop Systems, the creators of iMockups position it exactly as a tool for quickly creating the first rough sketches of an application’s interface.  From my initial experiences with the application I would say that it does meet that goal. My first experiments with iMockups were in creating a pair of sketches for web interfaces.  One based on the layout of a website and the other putting more emphasis on a web-application like interface.  I was able to put both together fairly quickly even though I had never used the application before.  While I wasn’t able to get the sketch to look “exactly” like I imagined it, I didn’t really expect to.  The sketch I got is sufficiently close to how I would draw it on paper, that any differences were irrelevant. Doing it on the iPad instead of paper gave me the freedom to move things around a bit and try other layouts, without having to start all over again.  I know that this is a pretty obvious advantage of drawing something on a computer, but sometimes people forget to consider the obvious. It is quite easy to create mockups of iPhone and iPad apps with iMockups.  Doing so for iPhone applications is particularly interesting as you can have several different mockups on the same “page” in the application.   In my testes I created a two page project with one dedicated to an iPad mockup and the other with an iPhone sketch. Above you can see my first iPad application mockup and below my first iPhone application sketch.  While I wasn’t really trying to define how a new application works, I was trying to create something that roughly matched most of the applications I use on these devices. Once you get the interface elements into the drawing, by either dragging or taping them, you can adjust their appearance by selecting them and taping the “info” button.  This button brings up popup with configuration options of that specific interface elements.  This can help you to change important properties such as the orientation of a scroll area.  Through this popup you can set the objects size and position as well it z-order. Setting the z-order of an element lets you specify if it should shown behind or in front of other elements. The general concept of iMockups is quite easy to understand and you get used to how it works fairly quickly.  Most of the time that you using iMockups for iPad you will be holding your iPad in landscape mode as the application has two side panels which takes up some screen space to both sides of the drawing canvas. Holding the device in landscape mode adds just enough space for you to see your canvas and the side panel with elements you can choose to add to the diagram. This application has seen a steady stream of updated since it was released, with a score of new features added and a good deal of bug fixes too.  To me this is a very good sign that the developers are continuing to work on improving it.  From going over their release notes I was able to tell that several new interface elements have been...
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How Flipboard is changing what I read and how I interact with people

How Flipboard is changing what I read and how I interact with people
Recently I published a post commenting on the fact that Flipboard was an interesting App to check out, if you were able to.  As the application was released there was such an influx of people downloading it and wanting to use it that their servers were overwhelmed.  At that point I had watched their demo video, but had not yet been able to try out the App. Now, they seem to have gotten things under control, even though you need to go through a registration process that lets them have better control on the number of people putting demand on their  back-end services. A couple of days ago I finally managed to test Flipboard, as I was able to put in my request and got their response email telling me that I was now allowed to configure the application to access my Facebook and Twitter accounts.  That is a simple process and once you’re done with it Flipboard will start to pull in content from your accounts and to present it as you’ve never seen it before. When you have configured your social network accounts and chosen a couple of other information sources (or infosource for short) you’d like to access through the application you can move will be presented with a checkerboard of small items, showing an item from each infosource you have selected.  The way this is presented reminds me a lot of how printed magazines organize their content index, showing you a picture and some call out text about the main articles in their different sections.  Well, that is hardly unexpected as Flipboard defines itself as a Social Magazine. That is in fact a very good definition as Flipboard does a great job at presenting information that is gathered from your social networks in a manner that strongly resembles my conception of what a good magazine for the iPad should look like. I’ll freely admit that I hate Facebook’s interface.  Although I do go into Facebook every couple of days to post something and read up on what my friends and colleagues are doing it is only very sporadically that I spend more than few minutes at a time on the website. Well, Flipboard changed my entire appreciation of Facebook.  I still don’t like Facebook’s interface, in fact I think that I like it even less now, but Flipboard grabs links to blog posts, news articles photos and comments from my Facebook friends and presents them to me in a way that is enticing and engaging.  I believe that I’ve placed more comments on Facebook items in the past 2 days that in the previous 2 months.  Why?  Because the interface draws me in to actually take a closer look at content I would not have clicked through to see in Facebook and then offers me the chance to comment on it. The picture shown above is a perfect example of a very interesting bit of information that would probably have escaped me entirely, were it not for how Flipboard displays the information.  The photo that is shown in this screenshot is from a post where Collis Ta’eed comments on the fact that he and his company had made the cover  of Australia’s NETT# magazine.  Collis, CEO of Envato, is great guy with some very interesting activities which I follow with great interest since he started his company.  As another text line in Facebook, I would probably have missed it, had I bothered to access the site at all on the afternoon when this was posted.  As a large picture showing the magazine’s  cover it was very hard to miss on Flipboard. Thought I use Twitter a lot...
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Flipboard: a social magazine you should try, if you can

Flipboard: a social magazine you should try, if you can
About two days ago people started talking about Flipboard. Really talking a lot.  So much so that many people, including me, have found it very hard to try it out.   Just last night I noticed a tweet from the other side of the planet in which the editor of readwriteweb.com commented that he too couldn’t try it because Flipboard was over capacity. This problem should give you an indication of just how interesting a concept Flipboard really is.  In short, Flipboard collects information from your Twitter and Facebook (other Social Networks may be supported) feeds and uses it to bring all the links your friends are sharing into your iPad in a Magazine-like layout.   When you think about it, it sounds pretty interesting as you get a much more enticing presentation of the shared information than you do with pretty much any other application or interface I’ve seen before. The App collects the articles, posts and photos your friends have shared allowing you to see them in a magazine-like interface that provides the social features you expect on the web such as “liking” a specific item or sharing it with your own followers. I’ve embedded the demo video to give you an idea of how the application works and what it looks like.  I think that most will agree that is worth getting the free application to try it out in person, when they manage to overcome the capacity issue. It seems obvious that the folks at Flipboard underestimated the interest their application would draw. I hope they can iron out the capability issues soon as the concept is nothing short of brilliant, and they are going to have people coming in from all sides to try out the...
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App Review: Osfoora HD – A great Twitter client

App Review: Osfoora HD  – A great Twitter client
Over the past week I’ve been trying out Osfoora HD, a Twitter client of which I had never heard of until I pretty much stumbled on it in the App Store. If you are in a similar situation read on as it turned out that this app is really interesting. In the past I have used several different Twitter clients and I tried a couple of them out in the iPad but none gave me as good an experience as Osfoora HD.  At first look it seems a bit like a cross between Twitterrific and TweetDeck, but it feels like an improved version of what this cross would look like. Let’s start from the beginning, with the Twitter user accounts.  In Osfoora HD, as in all major Twitter clients you can have multiple accounts and you can switch between them easily.  The whole time you are using Osfoora you are working within the context an individual account.  While this might not be the best option when you post similar tweets to different accounts, it is very good when your focus is more on reading and soaking in what everyone else is saying. You can see in the following picture the screen where you choose which account you will use.  At any time you can return to this screen to switch between accounts . Once you have selected an account you are taken to a general view of that account’s timeline.   In that screen you can scroll through your tweets quickly and access other views through the buttons in the bottom of the display. Using those buttons you can choose to see mentions and direct messages, instead of the timeline.  You can even choose to show the location of the people whose tweets have chosen to show such location information to the public. In the picture above you can see an example of a timeline being shown through Twitter.  Once you have found a tweet that is of interest to you and which has a link, you can tap it and it will be shown in greater detail in the “upper” most portion of the screen (in portrait mode)  as shown in the picture below. Osfoora HD has a great feature for integrating it with new services such as Instapaper and Read It Later.  Once you have activated one of these services within the application a popup menu will be displayed whenever you touch a link, asking if you would like to view that item immediately or store it for later reading.  This is one powerful feature for me as I go through hundreds of tweets daily and with this option I can save most stuff that interests me for reading after I have reviewed all tweets instead of always interrupting this task to go off read a page that I’ve been led to by a link in a tweet. This feature alone has helped me become much more productive when reviewing a couple of hours worth of tweets as I have a much more direct and well structured workflow.  First review all tweets flagging appropriate links for further investigation through Instapaper.  Once I’ve gone through all the tweets, I skim through each of those saved documents to see which ones I should devote some time to really reading. The application’s settings are easily accessible through the button in the upper toolbar that shows a gear icon.  While there are a good deal of options they are generally easy to use. It didn’t take me more than fifteen minutes to have the application configured the way I wanted, with four Twitter accounts registered and all the preferences set, including the integration to...
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First look: Apple’s Retail Store app in the App Store

First look: Apple’s Retail Store app in the App Store
Apple has made available on the App Store its new retail store application.  The application is designed for the iPhone but runs on the iPad. In fact I grabbed some screen shots using the iPad.  The application allows you to place orders for all the products you expect to find in the Apple store and has a nice feel to it, being very similar in functionality to the App Store itself, as you would expect. I experimented with placing an order for an iPad and it offers you the option of adding services such as MobileMe or AppleCare to the purchase, while making it very easy to skip over the offering with a “Skip” button shown right at the top.  I wonder how much Apple’s sales of low priced items might increase due to impulse buying based on this App.  I imagine they will sell a lot more headphones, sleeves and such this way than they do now that people have to go to a physical store or to their regular online store. Check out the app which is now available for download from the US App...
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App Store reaches 10,000 iPad apps

The App Store is now showing more than 10,000 apps specifically for the iPad.  That is an impressive mark after just two and a half months since the device was first released.  This is all the more impressive because iPad apps tend to be more complex and extensive in functionalities than their iPhone and iPod siblings. It is just natural that having much more screen area users would expect more of the applications and that developers would find ways to explore it.  Many iPad applications are much closer  to desktop applications to what you would expect and be used to on the iPhone or iPod, as they can provide functionalities which would be impossible with the much smaller displays of the pocket sized devices. With Apple expected to receive a huge influx of iOS 4 versions of iPhone applications  before its release, later this month, it is quite possible that the approval process of iPad applications may suffer some delays, leading to a smaller number of applications getting approved during the next month or...
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