Posts Tagged ‘iPhone’

Pioneer announced the AppRadio a few weeks back . You can read about it here. I got excited at first. I thought they had really integrated the iPhone into the radio. Instead it runs its own apps. I want it to display my iPhone on a screen in my car so that I run the apps on my iPhone. I don’t need yet another device to get apps for. I want to run the ones I already have on my iPhone.  I was kind to Mulally in my last post. That’s because I feel he is pushing Ford in the right direction. Still, will someone please “get it” that the phone is primary and the car should include an interface to the phone rather than duplicating the smartphone’s functionality?

In looking back at my comments on transparency I realize I might be giving the wrong impression. Data transparency is moving along. However, creating software that makes moving from one device to another transparent is very hard to accomplish. It involves making the transition from one UI to another transparent or, coming from the other direction, involves making one UI work across several devices. Consider where this has been most successfully done i.e. the iPad and iPhone. Both the iPhone and the iPad use the same OS with the same UI. However, in accomplishing this, the tablet version of iOS has been hindered by the need to work well on the much smaller screen of the iPhone. Google has taken a different approach. Their tablet version of Android is noticeably different from the phone version. The result is that Apple and Google are coming at the problem from opposite directions. With Ice Cream Sandwich, Google will try to unify the tablet and phone experience and thereby improve transparency when moving between the devices. Apple, with iOS 5, will try to bring better functionality to iOS so their tablet offering is less restricted by the OS and is able to come closer to the functionality of a full blown laptop.

But tablets and phones are closely related. Any problems encountered while working to achieve transparency between the two pale compared to merging the experience with other devices. Consider the TV set. It lacks a touch screen. Any keyboard linked to the TV set will almost certainly be less than full sized. It would be easy to claim that the TV is fundamentally different and to forget transparency altogether.  That would be a mistake. There is too much money at stake to take the easy way out. Here is where human factors specialists will have to shine. They will have to craft a different OS interface than that on a phone or tablet but one which feels very similar to the phone OS interface such that knowing the phone OS takes the TV OS learning curve to zero.The same will be true when looking at the man-machine interface in the automobile. Here, minimizing driver distraction will be the main goal. There are two aspects to driver distraction and they will sometimes work against each other. On the one hand, making the automobile UI look like the phone UI will allow use to be more second nature and thereby require less conscious thought on the part of the driver. The problem is that a phone OS will sometimes require that the driver look away from the road. That’s not good. A compromise will have to be reached. Like the TV, there will be other ways of interfacing to the UI than just a touch screen. There will be voice, steering wheel controls and probably a mouse like device similar to what BMW uses on its infamous iDrive.

This high difficulty level extends to applications. I really like those iTunes store apps that have the plus sign next to the price. You pay once and you get something that works on both your iPhone and iPad. I hate paying twice for an app just because I want it on my iPhone and my iPad. Down the road I want to buy an app once and use it on whatever device is handy. This trend is already in full play. Just take a look at Steam. When you buy a program through Steam, you can download and install it on any machine you like. You log into your Steam account to gain access. The main problem here is that you have to download a large program for each device but that could be easily automated. Also, as more programs exist in the cloud, this will be less of an issue. Already some programs allow the user to start playing while sections of code not in use continue to download. The big problem is interface design. Imagine making Crysis work on everything from a phone to a TV set. That’s not easy. It is particularly difficult if the user wants to pick up a game in progress on one device, say a TV, where he left off on another such as his phone. To get an idea of the scope of the problem look at Foreflight. This is a great aviation app with an excellent user interface. However, their iPhone and iPad apps are two completely different animals. With Foreflight this isn’t too big of an issue since the apps are free and the database subscription allows use on an iPhone and an iPad at the same time. The photos below show how different the interface has to be because of screen size.

The iPad version of Foreflight allows selecting different pages from any current page. Look at the bottom of the picture below.

Sections like AIRPORTS and DOWNLOADS can be selected on the bottom. Now look at these screen captures from the iPhone app. The first shows the page equivalent to the iPad page shown above.

Here you select CLOSE which takes you to this page:

Now you can select the page you want.

I am not picking on Foreflight. Rather, I am highlighting what they have done as an example of adapting to the different screen sizes of the two devices while maintaining a lot of the same feel so that the learning curve is low. However, this is the easy part. Adapting to TV, car, laptop etc. will be a lot more difficult. If you are a pilot you might be wondering why anyone would want to use this program across so many devices. But, if transparent use and data is really achieved then imagine the following scenario. You are watching TV with some friends when the talk turns to playing golf on Hilton Head the next day. You bring up Foreflight on the TV and flight plan the trip to find out the flight time and take an initial look at weather. The next morning you quickly update and file the flight plan using your laptop. On the way to the airport you notice that the morning clouds haven’t burned off as expected so you decide to check the current airport weather. Your car interfaces into the Foreflight app on your phone and you are able to bring up the weather. In the air passengers follow the flight’s progress on the iPad using the same program. You have bought one application and used it across numerous devices. It feels easy and natural to do but it was only easy for you. For the developers it was a tough task. They had to sweat the user interface and how it would appear on different devices. The device manufacturers had to sweat the user interface of the OS to make sure this transparent usage would , well…, really be transparent.

Fragmentation in Your Face

Posted: May 12, 2011 in Apple, Google
Tags: , , ,

I thought I was done posting for today. Then I saw something in the Android Marketplace. I don’t own an Android phone so I don’t go roaming around market.android.com very often. I do however, think Netflix is a very influential company and that media streaming is where TV is headed. So, rummaging around I found this:

Get Netflix on your Android phone. Just download this free app and you can instantly watch TV shows & movies streaming from Netflix.

• It’s part of your Netflix unlimited membership. Not a Netflix member? Start your FREE trial today.
• Watch as often as you want.
• Resume watching where you left off on your TV or computer.
• Browse movies and manage your instant Queue right from your phone.

Currently Netflix playback is supported on the following phones:

• HTC Incredible with Android 2.2
• HTC Nexus One with Android 2.2, 2.3
• HTC Evo 4G with Android 2.2
• HTC G2 with Android 2.2 
• Samsung Nexus S with Android 2.3

You can click the link if you must but the key info is above. What struck me was the limited number of devices. Now I use an iPhone. There are certainly apps that won’t work with older iPhones but most do. Besides Apple users are expected to upgrade every two to four years anyway <BG>. What strikes me about the above listing is how many recently introduced Android phones aren’t listed. Shouldn’t any Android phone introduced in the last two years automatically be on this list? This is a big issue for Android. The Android brand needs to mean something. It’s OK to say any phone with Android 2.2 or later. The key should be the ANY PHONE part. If you can run a certain version of the OS then you should be able to run the app if your phone is a relatively new one. Now I suspect that may really be the case but the fact that it isn’t stated that way on the app store is a problem. Maybe it could say Android 2.2. and 1.0GHZ processor or faster and 512MB RAM. That’s a bit of a pain but it is generic. That’s what happens in PC land. What if every PC program had to have a model list that you checked to see if it would run on your machine? Crazy right? Fragmentation is a real issue for Google and the Android brand.


The old school model has been data everywhere and in its proper place. This directly relates to an old world paper model. Whether at home or at work each bit of data had a place. There was a file folder, nicely labeled, and placed in a drawer. That’s why, when you go to the doctor, you get to write the same information down several times on different sheets of paper. Each sheet has a purpose and a location it will get filed into.  As we have moved into the computer age we have carried this model with us. There was data on the desktop at work, data on the desktop at home, data on the file server and data on the laptop; oh, and data on the phone.

Lo and behold we found that, sometimes, data wasn’t where we wanted it. The first solution was manual transfer. I mean a really manual transfer. We would write data on a piece of paper and enter it back into another computer. Some people still do this when moving contacts from their desktop to their phone. This was replaced by sneaker-net where data was copied onto a storage medium and then read back in on another computer.  First there was the floppy disk and today there is the USB thumb drive. Next came the network. Finally data was easy to move. That is it was easy as long as you were on the net.

The problem was that home wasn’t connected to work nor was the hotel room connected to either one. This was attacked via remote logins and by sending email messages with files attached. However, attachment file size limits have made email problematic for the transfer of large files. FTP transfers had no such limitation but were cumbersome. Another attempt, still widely used today, is syncing. You sync your iPhone and iPad to your home computer so your songs and data travel with you. Less successful have been attempts to sync laptops to your desktop. The latest attempts at fixing this issue have been Dropbox, Yousendit, MobileMe, Windows Live Mesh and Live Sync. These help and are the first steps towards a cloud computing solution. Well, technically, Live Sync and Yousendit aren’t cloud based but I see them as very related. Live Sync can be viewed as a peer to peer extension of classic synchronization software but it feels closer to the cloud solutions when you use it. Actually, Dropbox, MobileMe, and Windows Live Mesh are really a merging of synchronization and cloud services. Synchronization has the advantage of maintaining a local copy so work can continue smoothly when the network is down or slow. The cloud aspect means that you can access your data even when you are away from a machine that is being synchronized. As an example, if a PICTURES folder is on the MobileMe iDisk, under the Dropbox folder, or is selected for Windows Live Mesh, the content in PICTURES can be accessed from a friend’s web browser with the proper login. Sharing content with others is also fairly straightforward. If you haven’t used these services be sure to try them. All but MobileMe are free at the basic level. MobileMe is about to get a major change so hold off on it till you see what the changes bring.

What we are seeing is the rising importance of transparency. In this case it is transparent data access. We want our pictures, music, movies and documents whenever we decide to view them, wherever we happen to be, and using whatever device is handy at the moment. The methods above aren’t totally transparent but they are a big improvement. When I got my iPhone, I left the Apple store with email, contacts and my calendar on my phone. Today, between my laptop, iPad and iPhone, a contact, calendar event or email added to one appears on all of the others.  If need be, I can access it all through a web browser on any machine with web access. Key files, including the document I am editing now, are synchronized across devices as well as being stored in the cloud. What we are seeing is the beginning of data transparency. There is a lot more to be done. In the end you won’t think about where your data is.

Recall what I said about major trends. Do the approaches above seem too similar? Is transparency just a minor trend that seems major? Was I wrong about trends and is this a case of one with a clear development path?  The answer is no to all of the above. There are other directions to data transparency.

Look at the RIM Playbook.Its Blackberry Bridge technology takes a different approach to transparency by tethering the Playbook to a Blackberry phone. One advantage of this is a single data connection, and hence a single expense, for both the phone and the tablet. By definition email is in sync since email is really through the phone at all times.  A big problem with this is that the tablet becomes tethered to the phone in such a strong way that it is no longer a separate device.

Need another direction? Look at the Motorola Atrix with its laptop dock. In this case the laptop is just an accessory screen and keyboard for the phone. Like the Playbook, the laptop is worthless without the phone. For some reason I don’t see that as a major problem. However, layz person that I am, I dislike the idea of having to plug and unplug the phone from the laptop accessory.

Yet another approach was outlined by HP CTO Phil McKinney here. He describes the Fossil Metal Watch which will allow you to carry your data with you.  All of your devices connect to the watch for data access. One problem, among several, is that a lot of people don’t wear a watch anymore. Furthermore, the watch screen is useless for data access. This means that you must, at the minimum, carry a phone in order to have access to a useful screen. Since you are carrying the phone anyway, why not just build the ability to be the data hub into the phone? In reality, that is what is going to happen.

So, what is the final answer? All of the above or at least parts of all of the above will survive the cut. The cloud will become very important and syncing will hang around. Rather than wearing a watch with our data stored on it, we will carry our phones. The phone will move from being an accessory to the laptop to being the main computing device with the laptop as an accessory. The current iPhone has 32GB of storage. It won’t be long until 1TB will be the standard. At that point there will be enough storage for the phone to be the primary data store. But, there will still be a need for offline storage. Also, there is the need to make sure critical data is backed up. That means syncing will stay around. This also means a cloud services component. Cloud services will allow access when the device isn’t with you and the sharing of files with friends. Mixing syncing with cloud services will mean gaining access to you apps and songs and OS updates without resorting to a PC. Expect to see iTunes move more completely to the cloud very soon i.e. in the next few months. What about the Atrix type device? My problem with the Atrix is that I am lazy and I think others are too. I don’t want to take out my phone and plug it in. Instead, I want it to link wirelessly to a keyboard-screen combination. Imagine going home and sitting at your computer. It lights up with what you were working on last. You get up and walk away. The screen goes blank. When you get to work and sit down the screen lights up again with what you were working on. A quick click of a mouse button switches the device to your work configuration and you are on your way. Your tablet will link to your phone to transparently gain access to your data. The same will be true for your TV. Imagine a video call on your phone. You sit down, tap an icon on your phone and the call is transferred to your TV so the entire family can see and talk to Grandma. Wherever we are, we will use the device that suits us at the moment. That device will have immediate access to all of our data. We will move from device to device easily even when we are in the middl of a task. The companies that best develop and integrate with this ecosystem win.

Why the iPad is Like Texting

Posted: April 15, 2011 in Apple, iPad
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I have an iPad. I love it. When i was thinking of getting one my son said “But Dad, it’s just an iPhone that costs more and can’t make phone calls. “ He’s right. So why do I love it? Why do millions of people love it? The answer is because it’s like texting. Think of texting. What purpose does it serve? If you need immediate communication then call. If you want to write something then email. By just about any same bit of logic few people should ever text. But, people do. The answer lies in balance. Texting is more immediate than email but less intrusive than a phone call.  The iPad is like that. It’s more portable than a laptop but with a bigger screen than a phone. Neither texting nor the tablet should be popular but they are because of balance. Texting is the perfect compromise between a phone call and an email. The tablet is the perfect compromise between a phone and a laptop. Just a thought.

Did Apple Win by Being Wrong?

Posted: April 15, 2011 in Apple
Tags: , ,

I was looking at some of the limitations of iOS one day. Wait, the fact is I was cussing out the limitations of iOS, when I realized that Apple may have won by being wrong. It is apparent that Apple had no idea that the iPhone would turn into the computer platform it is. There were a few pages to hold the few extra apps an owner would want and that was it. There were no folders (since fixed) and no shared directory structure among apps (not fixed). I mentioned in an earlier post that Microsoft was more correct on this as far as where we will ultimately wind up. Maybe the public needed a dumbed down simple interface in order to accept the device. Once accepted it is easier to modify things and lead the public along. Apple was wrong about how the iPhone would be used. They had little idea people would place hundreds of apps on an iPhone. But… maybe this is what was needed. Now that the public mindset has been changed we can move forward and have a more feature rich operating system. At least I hope that is what will happen.

The merging of the PDA and the phone is a done deal. We have moved on to the smartphone that can run apps beyond those of the classic PDA. Still, for many, this is their view of convergence. The Palm Treo showed the way but success led to myopia and Palm is no more. OK, it’s still there and WebOS is being pushed by HP. We’ll see. Call it a dark horse in a tough race. For too long Palm thought that merging the classic PDA with the phone was where convergence would end. They were wrong and by the time they realized it they were way behind. Myopia resulted in opportunity and market position being lost.

Microsoft saw the need for the smartphone. They should be the big winner today. They aren’t. Like so many in the high tech area they thought it was about feature count. They took the merging of the computer and the phone too literally and thought the smartphone should be a smaller laptop. They were wrong. In reality the computer and the phone are moving to a merged but very different use model.  Understanding convergence without understanding transparency can lead to failure. It has for Microsoft. By any rational, technical feature count analysis they should be a big winner. For many years they have had a small version of Office on Windows Mobile phones. They have a real directory structure. Of all of the smartphones they are the closest in feel to a traditional computer. Yet, the iPhone blew them away.  Interestingly, in the end, Microsoft will turn out to have been more right than wrong. Smartphones will gain a directory structure. Trust me on this one. Even Apple will eventually succumb to this. Already the iPhone has Office type apps that sort of work with MS Office files. Microsoft is the loser who gets to say “But I was really right!” With Windows Mobile 7 they stand a chance but they are number three in a tough race.  We’ll have to wait and see if they can get away from “featuritis” and understand both convergence and transparency.

Next up in the success leads to myopia crowd is RIM and the Blackberry line. What a great success story. The push mail capability brought by RIM has revolutionized the phone. Back when email was an afterthought on phones, RIM made it primary and did it with innovation, insight and excellent execution. Just as importantly, RIM courted the IT community and insinuated themselves into the fabric of business life. Today we take mail on our smartphone for granted. RIM is the gold standard for mail connectivity and Blackerry phones are known for their keyboards that make texting and email easier than on other phones. Surely RIM will be a winner as convergence proceeds. Well, in the words of Leslie Nielson in Airplane, “Don’t call me Shirley.” As smartphones have moved from email device to small, app running, computers, RIM has been left behind. Do you see a pattern? RIM left the door open for Apple and Google. Not only did these companies take the developing space RIM ignored but they are now attacking RIM at its core. Just read this article to see how the corporate world, including financial companies, is opening up to Apple. Yes, Apple! The company that was ostracized from the corporate environment and ridiculed by IT departments everywhere is being warmly accepted into the corporate world. Times are changing. The corporate walls that protected RIM have been breached with the iPad leading the way. RIM’s PlayBook is too little too late. If it had hit the market place two years ago it might have secured the corporate world from attack and had IT departments still recommending RIM. Yet again success and lack of vision have led to stagnation.

All of this is what I call classic convergence. The phone merged with the PDA and then became the premier email access device. It would be easy to think that we are nearly done. In reality it has just started.  That’s because convergence is much, much bigger than calendars, address books and email. Stay tuned as I explore the many areas making up convergence and how this ties in with transparency.