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The Pulse news reader and the stupidity of old media

The Pulse news reader and the stupidity of old media
During his opening keynote at WWDC 2010, Steve Jobs briefly showed the Pulse news reader as one of the applications available for the iPad, on the App Store.  On the same day the application was taken down from the App Store due to a complaint from the Times Company, owner of the New York Times (NYT). Originally I found out about this through Mike Cane’s irate rumblings in his iPadTest blog.  While he is always quite colorful in his writing, he has the great virtue of being direct and to the point.  This was stupid. I started to write this post much earlier when I first learned that the New York Times had issued a complaint against the Pulse news reader for how their content was being used by them.  As I looked up more information on this I found out that the application was back on the App Store, probably after removing the NYT’s RSS feed from the list of pre-loaded or suggested feeds.  I read about the Times complaint and while still thinking it was a bad decision on their part not to want to be pre-loaded into the reader app, I thought them within their rights to do so.  At that point I decided that there was no reason to continue writing abou this. This  changed when I came across a new update on the case where Robert Christie, a spokesperson for the NYT is reported to have said “We think it has been reinstated by error, and we have asked Apple for an explanation.” That got me worked up again.  After all, if the fellows remove the NYT from the pre-loaded list of RSS feeds there is nothing left for the company to complain about.    Oddly, it turns out that despite the developers having submitted a new version of the App for approval by Apple, it hasn’t been approved yet and it is the original App that has been made available again. Soon the new version of the App should be available from the App Store and the Times Company will have gotten its wish to be excluded from the default reading list of over 35.000 people who would be exposed to their content and which might click through to read more stuff on their site.  This move by the Times Company should have their stockholders yanking their hair out.  Turning away exposure to thousands of potential readers in a single act such as this is as dumb a move as I can think of. Let’s look a bit deeper into the complaint by the Times Company against the App.  There are three parts to the complaint, as I understand it.  First as a paid application they were making commercial use of the NYT intellectual property without licensing it.  Second, when the user selects an article it opens in an embedded browser, and it is therefore “framing” the site, which is against its terms of service and finally they were using the image of the NYT to promote their product. Let’s start with the last item.  I can understand the NYT not wanting their image to be used to suggest that they are recommending the App or in any way connected to it.  A fair point and essentially just a matter of replacing the screenshots published on iTunes to show the content of other sites that aren’t bothered by that. Now let’s look closely at the first two points. Pulse is a news reader.  An application designed with the purpose of reading RSS feeds.  If you don’t want people to be able to read your RSS feed in the applications that are designed to...
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Will Wired for iPad still be a success after a couple of issues?

Will Wired for iPad still be a success after a couple of issues?
Wired Magazine made its debut on the iPad recently and seems to have done well for itself.  With 24,000 units sold and downloaded in the first 24 hours, things are looking good for Wired.  But, are they really? There is another number about the magazine that is quite troubling: 527.  The first issue of Wired for the iPad has a wopping 527 MBs of size.   So what?  Well, that is a lot of megabytes for a single magazine issue, specially when you consider it relative to the storage space of a base model iPad: 16 GB. If all magazines were to have similar size a base model iPad would only be able to store 32 magazine issues in all, and that would only be if the owner decided that he didn’t need any applications, videos, music, etc. Somehow I don’t think that people that want to read Wired digitally, on a recurring basis, i.e. become subscribers are likely to find this issue size okay. The size of the first issue is not necessarily of concern to readers, however.  A recent post on AppleInsider describes what a curious developer was able to find out about the Wired App, when digging around in a Jailbroken device and it is really surprising. The entire content for the magazine is included in the form of large images.  Essentially there are two very large images for each page of the magazine.  One image for viewing in landscape and another for viewing in portrait. What this means is that the Wired App has almost no functionality built-in, limiting itself to displaying the right images depending on which page you are reading and in which orientation mode and playing videos or sounds when certain points are touched by the user.  One reviewer on the iTunes store that gave it a bad review described it as being a PDF with videos, but from a technological  point of view it is way worse than that as PDF files are actually script files an thus smaller and more flexible than mere images. It is interesting to note that this does not detract from the quality of the content offered by the magazine, which appears to be identical to that contained in the printed paper version. With over 800 reviews the Wired App currently enjoys a full five stars rating. Hopefully the current low-tech, high-download-size situation of the Wired App will be resolved in the near future as Adobe further develops is digital magazine publishing product, which right now seems to be something that was put together in great haste in order to allow customers such as Wired to go proceed with their digital publishing strategy, after Apple cut the legs out from under Adobe’s original plan of having a Flash cross-compiler to transform Flash based applications into native iPhone OS applications. Right now Adobe’s solution to the situation helped Wired get to market with the  first iPad issue which has seen good sales, but if Adobe doesn’t work on this solution it will end up being a real problem for their customers, as people start to realized that the publications are eating up all the space in their...
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Skype can now finally make calls over 3G

Skype can now finally make calls over 3G
Skype for iPhone 2.0 is out and you can now finally make calls over a 3G connection.  While this is great news, it comes at a price, literally.  Skype-to-Skype calls over the 3G network will only be free until the end of August 2010.  After that, there will be a monthly fee that will need to paid in order to be able to place these calls. So, Skype 2.0 isn’t all good news.  Skype-to-Skype calls have always been free, with Skype charging for calls ending on a mobile or fixed line phone.  Why should there be a charge that will apply specifically to calls placed over the 3G connection is question that all users would like to see answered. Skype 2.0 is available for the iPad in App Stores around the world, including in countries where the iPad is not on sale yet. * Image: iTunes store and...
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Pianist plays encore on an iPad in San Francisco concert

Pianist plays encore on an iPad in San Francisco concert
Pianist Lang Lang surprised his audience in a San Francisco concert when he performed the encore on his iPad.  He used the Magic Piano iPad application from Smule in the performance. While I had seen this application before and knew that it was a serious music application, not only a toy, it had never crossed my mind that a professional pianist would use it in a concert.  I don’t know why, as almost all music these days has at least a couple of electronic instruments playing. I guess we do live in interesting times for every one. *Images: Smule Source: The Huffington...
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Opera Review: Exciting, but not too much so

Opera Review: Exciting, but not too much so
Last night I wrote a quick post about Opera Mini having been approved for the iPhone and my curiosity about when it would come to the iPad.  On the day after I’m still excited about the fact that Apple allowed a competing browser on the iPhone, but I’m quite disappointed with the browsing experience offered by the application. The fact that Apple has allowed an application which competes with a built-in function of the device, something which was expressly forbidden, seems quite positive, specially at a moment when the company is being criticized for their moves to remove Flash from the iPhone developer’s tool chest.  While I already expected that Apple would not try to block other eBook readers from the iPhone OS devices as there were already several successful applications in that area in the App Store, browsers are a different issue all together.    For starters Safari has been one of the main features of the iPhone from day one and I wasn’t really holding my breath that Opera would get approval to have the browser in the App Store. Well, since they did and rapidly became the most downloaded free app on the US App Store, I thought it deserved a closer look, specially since their demo video was so impressive on the speed difference from Safari.   I was quite disappointed with how the application handled pages and the iPhone touch interface, right from the start.  There were issues with elements not being redimentioned to the same proportion as the surrounding page.  This was immediately visible in the WordPress admin pages where all the sidebar section headers were rendered much wider than their sections creating a bad first impression.  I decided to try it out on the public facing portion of the blog and again there were issues with how the page was rendered. I decided that I would not hold against the browser the fact that it could not properly render the iPad Watcher website and decided I would try it with the New York Times website as that is used in their own iTunes pictures and demo video.  Okay, the NYT website rendered okay, but I had couldn’t really read anything, so I decided to zoom in.  The touch response was horrible.  The page resized in bursts which made even short motions blow the page way too big and getting it back with a pinch yielded the exact opposite results.  The page got too small to quickly. While Opera does load pages much faster than Safari, it seems to do this at least partially by reducing the quality of what it is rendering.  For the sake of comparison I took snapshots of the NYT home page on both Opera and Safari.  Below you can see the Opera snapshot. Notice how you can’t really read anything on the page, other than the NYT banner on top.  This page effectively loaded in Opera Mini much faster than it did on Mobile Safari, but in order to even know what is on the paper you need to zoom in.  Unfortunately zooming while also fast doesn’t work half as smoothly as it does on Safari.  Below you can see the equivalent snapshot taken from the NYT home page in Safari. Notice how much clearer the page is on Safari.  You can pretty much read the main headlines which is extremely useful for you to know where you’ll want to zoom in. While Opera is only available in iPhone format, in many respects it looks like it would work better on the iPad with its much larger screen which wouldn’t require as much zooming for you to peruse the contents...
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iPad debuts as point of sales system

iPad debuts as point of sales system
A coffee shop in San Francisco called Sightglass Coffee Shop has just deployed an iPad as its point of sale (POS) terminal.  The device is running the Square payment system and is inserted into a custom made wooden swiveling stand which is shown in the picture in this post. Interestingly the website for the payment system had exactly this coffee shop’s system front and center in their home page, as I was writing this post.. A credit card reader is attached to the iPad through the headphones jack on the top.  You can see the white rectangular shape on the upper left corner of the iPad in the picture.  MacLife has a post on this topic with some speculation the potential of the iPad as a POS terminal device. A video demonstration of the payment system is available from you YouTube and I’ve embedded it below. *Image: 9to5Mac.com (via...
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iWork Apps for the iPad can hurt your documents

iWork Apps for the iPad can hurt your documents
It seems that the users of Mac version of iWork were in for a nasty surprise with iWork for the iPad.  The applications while generally considered quite powerful by reviewers do not support the full range of features available in their desktop siblings.  The result?  Documents that are edited in the iPad and synched back to the Mac loose some of their original formatting, angering users. I can understand how someone would be angered by loosing the result of hours of work in formatting a long document or presentation and I can also understand how this wasn’t picked up sooner in reviews.  Most reviewers don’t really use iWork except when it is time to review a new version of it.  Let’s face it, Apple’s productivity apps for the Mac while extremely attractive in their design aren’t as full featured as Microsoft Office or OpenOffice.org and its variations for OS X such as NeoOffice.  This means that most reviewers which are Mac users don’t use iWork on their day to day activities. Considering this scenario, it’s no wonder it was a few days before it was picked up as chatter in the Apple support forums.  The really unfortunate side of things is that many people could have avoided some grief if Apple had been clear about the differences between the two versions of the applications on its website and on the App Store.  To add insult to injury the group that got hit by this compatibility issue was exactly that of those most deeply wedded to Apple’s products. While I’ve been a Mac user for a couple of years, I’ve always sticked to OpenOffice.org when I work with documents on the MacBook, as that is what I use on Windows as well.  This means that I would probably be quite happy using iWork for the iPad to create short documents as I would never really be affected by this issue.  Looking at it from another angle, I had been wondering if I should switch to iWork on the Mac, now that I’m going to be using iWork on the iPad.  It would seem that the answer to that is going to be no, at least for a while. *Image: Apple...
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An application for taking course notes on the iPad

An application for taking course notes on the iPad
Today I stumbled upon what looks like a very interesting application for taking down course notes on the iPad.   Its called CourseNotes and it seems specially designed for the purpose of being used in an academic environment, as the name would imply.  The interface is seems very well thought out and easy to use.  One of the things that struck me on watching the demo video was that the interface seemed uncluttered and practical to use, making a distinction between what are regular notes and notes for an assignment which is due on a particular date. The demonstration video is quite interesting though it has no audio. This seems a bit strange as the demo would certainly benefit from a few cursory explanations, if only to keep the attention of the person watching.  I’ve included the demo video below which is just under three minutes in length. The first screen you see is a list of notebooks, one for each course you are enrolled in, I would guess, and when you choose one you get a sort of basic menu of things you may want to do with the notebook such as viewing your last session notes, create a new session or even copy the session notes of someone else that is also using CourseNotes, in case you missed a class. Your ToDo items for a particular course are shown on a small piece of paper that is clipped on to the menu page for that course’s notebook. This adds to the application’s paper notebook style interface metaphor. In keeping with that metaphor, CourseNotes even has a help notebook that is shown with a Moleskin style cover. The application is currently available on the App Store for $4.99.  It is interesting to note that there are lower priced applications on the App Store but none that seem to have the same focus on classroom and course notes and assignments.  At least none that I’ve seen so far.  I can’t make a recommendation on whether to purchase or not the application as due to geographical factors I haven’t gotten an iPad to test it yet.   I do plan on doing so as soon as it is possible as this looks like a well designed and thought out application. *Images: iTunes App...
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TweetDeck for iPad really brings Twitter to your fingers

TweetDeck for iPad really brings Twitter to your fingers
TweetDeck, a powerful desktop Twitter client application, is pushing hard for the top spot of Twitter clients on the iPad.  Today, when you access the TweetDeck website you are greeted to a large image of two iPads running the application and it looks gorgeous. I have been TweetDeck user on the desktop almost from the moment I started using Twitter, but even though there is a version of the application for the iPhone, I was seduced away by its competitors in that space.  It seemed to me that TweetDeck’s major strengths resided in how it organized and displayed information for you, using a large screen area.  In the confines of the small iPhone/iPod Touch display I tended to prefer another application. Now, having seen iPad screenshots of both TweetDeck and the application I currently use on the iPod, there can be no doubt that on the large screen of the iPad TweetDeck’s strengths come through clearly.  The writers of TweetDeck have done a remarkable job of designing an interface that makes effective use of the screen area.  Despite having coloring and graphics similar to the Air-based desktop version of the application it just seems to fit the iPad perfectly. When being held in portrait mode the application uses the topmost portion of the screen as an information panel where it can display further the built-in browser for you visualize the embedded links without needing to leave the application or the profile of the author of a particular tweet. If you feel you’ll want to keep on browsing after looking over a particular link, a lice looking button seems to hover over the bottom right corner of the page you’re viewing offering the option of browsing that page in Safari.  The fact that in the iPad you are effectively doing one thing at a time and that the application really fills out your whole screen with so much information should make for a really immersive Twitter experience. Another area in which TweetDeck seems to be driving forward full speed in is location.  The new application integrates with Maps to display the location information which can now be provided in tweets. The maps display takes up the whole screen and gives you a location marker on the coordinates from which the message originated.  While neither Twitter or Maps are new applications, seeing them so closely tied together in such a functional form is quite impressive. There can be no doubt that TweetDeck for the iPad is a great improvement over the iPhone version of the application and that it stands head and shoulders above even its desktop sibling. Congratulations to the folks that created TweetDeck for the iPad, did a terrific...
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University students raising the bar on note taking in the iPad

University students raising the bar on note taking in the iPad
A pair of university students are raising the bar of what note taking should be like on the iPad with an application called smartNote.  These fellows are designing an application that matches their needs for their current classes which should provide them with a decent insight on what might prove to be useful, or not. Taking notes seems to be a natural consideration when you think of the iPad as it seems like the kind of device you would want to carry around from class to class with its light weight, Internet access capabilities, eBook readers and productivity applications.  So, if you are going to have it always with you, what better place to keep your notes and have them always handy. smartNote has features for freehand drawing, graphs and a lot more.  This is the second application I have come across that looks to be heading in the general direction showcased in the videos about the Microsoft Courier device and built-in applications/features. Applications such as smartNote are just starting to come alive as developers move to take full advantage of the device’s features.  I’m sure that over the next several months we will see several similar applications appear on the App Store and see them mature into a category all of its own as  more and more students start using iPads. If you would like to see a video demo of smartNote, there are several available on YouTube. In watching the videos I was left with a general good impression of the product, but I feel that it is facing the difficulty of being entirely developed in a simulator.  This doesn’t allow the developers to properly test the application in a real usage situation.  This is not a smartNote issue, though.  It’s an iPad developer issue, due to all the secrecy that Apple insists to maintain around the product until it goes on sale. As the developers get access to a real device I imagine that they will quickly adapt their applications to the reality of day to day use of the iPad. UPDATE:  I have embedded bellow a demo video of the application, that shows off several of its...
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iTunes starts showing iPad versions of your Apps

As the moment you will finally be able to pick up your very own iPad and take it for a spin, the new version of iTunes has started indicating applications that have iPad specific versions.  I had just gone into the store to see what possible listings of other small bits of information about the new iPad applications I could stumble upon when I noticed that it was identifying a large number of updates for my Apps. I decided to take the time to have a quick look and perhaps start the download of the new versions of my applications.  My surprise was total when I noticed that the list of Apps was divided in two.  On the top portion of the screen you see a list of applications that are compatible with iPhone, iPod Touch and iPad and in the lower most portion you see a list of the ones which are iPhone and iPod Touch only. After telling iTunes to download all my updates I ended up with four applications being listed as having iPad versions: BlogPress, Evernote, History: Maps of World and WordPress.  The funny thing was Stanza, the multi-format ebook reader applicaion which was showing as having an iPad version before I downloaded the updates, but was listed as iPhone and iPod only, once the updates were...
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More ways of taking notes on the iPad

More ways of taking notes on the iPad
I’m sure that a couple of months after the iPad’s actual release, we will have so many note taking applications that we will be able to make list of which are better for what kind of activity.  To me it just seems like a natural function for a device with the form factor of an iPad and it seems that I’m not the only one to think so. In addition to plain text notes which you can handle with the iPad’s built-in Notes application, you will be able to create notes that include images and drawings with applications such as SketchPad, which you can see in the screen shot in this post and get a quick preview in the video below. SketchPad looks quite interesting and seems like a natural evolution of Apples own Notes application.  Several other note taking applications are known to be under development for release on April 3rd or soon...
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International developers complain about iPad delays…

…at least some of them do.  On a post on The  Next Web, Kim Heras, makes a statement that Apple is mistreating its international developers  because the iPad will only be available on some markets about a month after it is available in the US. He makes his point with the example of an Australian game developer that he is quick to add hasn’t really complained about it, but he feels that since they’ve sold 2 million copies of a game at $0.99, they’ve made Apple $600,000, so Apple could afford to give them special treatment and ship them some iPads. While I won’t say that Apple could have arranged some way to offer direct shipping to developers, at least developers that have sold more than a given amount of dollars, I don’t see that there is much to complain about.  If Apple did make $600,000 with the sales of that game it means that the company made about $1,400,000 with it.  With well over a million in revenue from that one game they should be able to afford a round trip to the US to buy a couple of iPads directly in stores on April 3rd. I don’t see that a company should be expected to have its physical products being released everywhere around the globe on the same day.  That applies to any company, not just Apple.  Does anybody believe that there are no iPhone/iPad developers in countries which aren’t scheduled to get an iPad a month after the initial release date and don’t even have a remote idea of when the iPad will reach them through official channels?  Don’t those developers make money for Apple as well?  Those people, as did the Australian company (which wasn’t really complaining), went about finding ways to get their hands on iPads as soon as possible, as their financial situation allows. There are other issues to consider too.  For example, in Brazil in order to be able to sell equipment that has built-in radios (wi-fi, bluetooth and 3G) they must seek approval by Anatel, the national agency that regulates all telecommunication activities.  This process was only started after the FCC approval process was started, so it will take longer for Apple to authorized to sell the iPad in Brazil.  One would imagine that similar processes need to be undertaken in different countries, all of which add up to delay global availability. Apple can’t be expected to provide simultaneous access to the thousands of developers that part of their iPhone development program (of which the iPad is part), as I wouldn’t expect HP, Dell or any other company to.  There are just too many people and companies in the program.  What I do believe they could do was to work on setting up a special sales channel for developers to which they would ship internationally.  (Were that would be...
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iPhone/iPad software retail model moving in on the desktop

iPhone/iPad software retail model moving in on the desktop
Recently I wrote a post about how the iPad might herald the end of software retail as we know it.  As an example I pointed to Bodega, a company that is aiming to bring the same kind of buying experience of the AppStore to Mac users. Today,  a post by Jim Dalrymple announced that the Bodega AppStore has left beta testing and is now fully open for business.  The whole idea is quite compelling and if the store works as seamless as Apple’s AppStore does on the iPhone this could a proposition that is difficult for users to resist. (Supposing they wanted to.) How long will it be until this moves on to Windows computers? *Image:...
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Today Apple started accepting submissions for iPad applications

Today Apple started accepting submissions for iPad applications
In an email sent out to developers, Apple informed that it had started accepting submissions for iPad applications.  This announcement started a flurry of good humored puns flying around on Twitter.  One of the most interesting one I noticed was inviting everyone to get their super sized bear drinking simulations ready for submission. I’m quite curious to see what developers have come up in the short time since Apple introduced the iPad to the world.  As much as some people still seem to think that the iPad is just a super sized iPod, the screen size difference is a huge difference and just enlarging an applications user interface wont’t really cut it.  This was one of the issues of porting applications from the iPhone to the iPad that I discussed extensively with Dan Grover, author of Etude a music application for the iPhone, in a recent chat we had. In order to create an interface that will look good on the iPad you pretty much need to start the visual portion of the application from scratch.  While lots of developer have been working like crazy to update their applications and even create new ones, I don’t envision that we will be seeing applications from third parties that really tap into the full potential of the iPad for a couple of months.  This will allow developers to test their applications in real iPads and make the necessary adjustments to improve the user experience. What do you...
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