Tag Archives: apple

iPad Pro is the new iPod Photo

I’m fascinated with the iPad “3” rumors because on the surface they make so little sense. Apple just shipped the iPad 2, no competitors can match it, and demand is strong. Why mess with a good thing so soon?

But it almost fits when you give it a name like “Pro” (or iPad Retina, or whatever). This isn’t a replacement for the current iPad; it’s another layer to the product lineup. And like the awkwardly-named iPod Photo from 2004, I bet the iPad Pro is meant to be temporary. It’s a way to sell a high-end, over-priced and over-pixeled iPad before the technology is cheap enough for the masses. A year or two from now, the Retina Display will be available in all iPads, and the “Pro” name will fade away, just like iPod Photo did when all iPods got a color screen.

Push-based sync

“Guy English writes about iCloud”:http://kickingbear.com/blog/archives/202 and the magic glue (Push Notifications’ persistent connection) that makes it work:

“Each of these new features tickle the persistent ‘push’ connection and trigger some action on the device. The short-form state may be transmitted immediately and set on any connected device within moments. Document syncing is likely to trigger a negotiation process to compare the state on any one device with The Truth stored on Apple servers and replace the document on the device with the latest revision — this has the advantage of limiting the window between syncing where conflicts are most likely to occur.”

Sync speed matters. The first note sharing server I built for VitalSource years ago assumed a lot of offline time, and despite “my blogging in 2007 that it was”:http://www.manton.org/2007/01/bookshelf_note_sharing.html “magic”, in practice it could take 5-10 minutes before all your computers got their act together to get a set of highlights completely synced. With that kind of lag, note edits might happen on a client in the meantime, so we remembered conflicts everywhere and had a UI for resolving them.

Too complicated. The new system, recently rolled out in Bookshelf for iPhone and iPad, syncs so much more efficiently and quickly that conflicts don’t need the same emphasis. We can throw away a bunch of code and simplify the user interface.

I’ve yet to do anything with iCloud except read the release notes and sit through a couple WWDC sessions, but we’re going to have a fantastic platform if it can deliver the same speed and reliability of Push Notifications. Guy’s post is the first I’ve seen to connect the dots, capturing how well-positioned Apple is to use this plumbing for all sorts of stuff.

iPad 2 (and tweets)

I couldn’t be more excited about the iPad 2. Yes, “most of it was expected”:http://twitter.com/manton/status/42597189645639680, but faster and more memory is exactly what the iPad needs. I’ll be getting it on day 1 and can’t wait to give Tweet Library a try on the new hardware.

During the announcement I collected 70 tweets that I thought captured the event. You can “view them on tweetlibrary.com”:http://tweetlibrary.com/manton/ipad2event.

Speaking of Tweet Library, Apple just approved version 1.2.2. It fixes a handful of bugs and adds a few new things, like block and report spam, for those of you using it as your main Twitter client. Check out the “full release notes”:http://www.riverfold.com/software/tweetlibrary/releasenotes/ or view it “in the App Store”:http://itunes.apple.com/us/app/tweet-library/id365768793?mt=8.

30% of the future

I believe the iPad is the future of mainstream computing, not just of mobile devices. That’s why I picked it as the first platform for Tweet Library. But forcing developers to use in-app purchase shows that Apple’s version of success for the iPad looks much different than mine.

Apple’s tight control over iOS has always been troubling. If there’s no way to install an app on the device without Apple’s approval, then Apple can make or break any business that builds for the platform. It’s an added risk for the thousands of tiny development shops for which the iPhone and iPad are otherwise perfect.

There was such huge growth in the development community because of iOS that I’m not sure anyone was paying attention to where we’d end up. We saw a new phone instead of the future of computing. We saw the gold rush but not the damage, so we let it happen. We let it happen by not sending Apple a clear message: total control over distribution is bad for developers and bad for users.

And now we’re letting Apple take 30% from every company that wants an iOS app to complement their business, whether it has anything to do with software development or not.

From Matt Drance:

“Whatever the fine print says, Apple is no longer letting developers do things it had been letting them do — and build businesses on — for almost two years, and many developers are quite understandably upset about that.”

And Marco Arment:

“A broad, vague, inconsistently applied, greedy, and unjustifiable rule doesn’t make developers want to embrace the platform.”

I hope we’re wrong about the worst-case interpretation — I like this Steve Jobs email much more than the reality of Readability’s rejection — but because Apple fails so spectacularly at communication we won’t know for sure until more rejections come in.

I’m not comfortable with a future in which 30 cents on the dollar goes to a single company, no matter whether it’s from app downloads (where Apple offers hosting and discovery) or content sales and web service subscriptions (where Apple offers little). If the iPad grows like many of us expect it to, siphoning a third of the cash flow around everyday computers will create a completely different economic environment than exists today. It’s unprecedented.

And it would ruin Apple. Not the company’s finances, but its focus. John Gruber wonders what he’s missing, and this is it: Apple is embracing a model that is fine for Readability but runs counter to Apple’s core business. The iTunes Music Store wasn’t a business in its own right; it helped sell more iPods. The App Store shouldn’t be a huge revenue stream; it makes the iPhone and iPad better.

Apple’s strength has always been selling a great product to end users — “the rest of us”. The new Apple has fallen into the trap of thinking they should also be an advertising company and an overpriced payment processor. It’s a slippery slope from here to becoming just another mega-corp that has their hands in everything that can make money instead of standing for something.

iPhone patents

“Wil Shipley on Apple’s decision”:http://wilshipley.com/blog/2010/03/open-letter-to-steve-jobs-concerning.html to be aggressive on their iPhone patents:

“But when you sue someone for doing something you do yourself, you become one of the bad guys. Can you name a company _you_ admire that spends its time enforcing patents, instead of innovating? Remember the pirate flag you flew over Apple’s headquarters when you were building the Mac?”

And “my tweet on this”:http://twitter.com/manton/status/9886138112 from yesterday:

“This iPhone preemptive patent war is going to backfire. You’re losing the battle for our hearts and minds, Apple.”

Whether Apple wins this patent lawsuit or not doesn’t even matter; the old Apple many of us fell in love with is dead and maybe never coming back. I still want to think of Apple as the company that fights the good fight, innovating and putting user experience first. But you have the App Store exclusivity and rejections, and now you have the patents.

It’s a shame they’ve gone so far off course. Regardless of market share and billions in revenue, I’ll always hold Apple to a higher standard than every other mega corp, and hope not just for better products but also for leadership and doing what’s right.

Apple promotions survey

I was chatting with some developers the other night about giving away software to Apple employees. If you’re not familiar with the practice, it’s fairly common to give free or discounted licenses to Apple employees as a gesture of goodwill to the people responsible for making our platform, and in the hope that they will spread the word to friends and customers in the Apple Stores. (If you’re a developer and want to set this up, “check out Dan Wood’s overview”:http://www.karelia.com/mac_indie_marketing/give_your_app_to_apple_empl.html.)

I’ve given away over 1000 licenses for “Wii Transfer”:http://www.riverfold.com/software/wiitransfer/ and “Clipstart”:http://www.riverfold.com/software/clipstart/ to Apple employees since I started doing it a few months ago. I didn’t expect this number to be so high, but I guess it makes sense. Apple folks are getting a link from their internal site directly to my special registration page, and many of them probably request a serial number just in case they need it later.

The question I have isn’t whether it’s worth it; it only took a few hours to set up, and even if it just makes a handful of Apple employees happy then that’s a success. But I was curious about the greater impact of giving away my software. Is the $0 investment in a pile of other free licenses enough to engage someone to, for example, take the time to set up Clipstart and move a collection of videos into it, let alone recommend it to others? (See also: “Worthless apps”:http://www.manton.org/2009/12/worthless_apps.html.)

To find out more, I sent a special newsletter to all the @apple.com addresses in my registration database, asking if they used the software, how they liked it, and whether they’d recommend it to others or not. And I included in “the short survey”:http://riverfold.wufoo.com/forms/riverfold-survey-for-apple-2010/ a place for general feedback, and a choice about upcoming features.

Some developers I talked with were concerned about a potential backlash. Although I send a newsletter to my customers once or twice a year, it’s debatable whether some of the people I was including had implicitly signed up by purchasing (with a 100% discount!) or whether I had crossed a line. The last thing I want to do is upset any of my customers, and I provide the same level of support to everyone whether they’ve paid full price, received a free license, or just tried the demo.

In the end I decided it was harmless. The email was short, plain text, and had an obvious one-click unsubscribe link. One of the things I like about using “Campaign Monitor”:http://www.campaignmonitor.com/ is that once someone unsubscribes, any new mailings are automatically scrubbed against the unsubscribers list. Even if I accidentally add the customer again in the future they won’t receive an email. So far, 2.2% of recipients have unsubscribed.

As for the survey results, here are a few graphs. Not many people filled out the survey (like unsubscribes, just a couple percent, though they’re still trickling in after 2 days), but the other feedback I received in the comments and feature questions was very helpful. 100% of users said they had mentioned the product to someone else.

Survey charts

Would I do this again? No, not such a narrowly-focused newsletter as this. The quick survey served its purpose, but I am always nervous about wearing out my welcome. I plan to add an explicit newsletter opt-in checkbox to my free license page, and I should do a better job of differentiating free licenses and paying customers in the future. I’ll send another general newsletter out to all customers (and opt-ins from contests) when I have something major to announce later in the year.

NDA and overnight optimism

Last week I blogged about “my experience with a late Amazon order”:http://www.manton.org/2008/09/almostright_amazon.html, commenting that I was a happy customer again after they apologized. Even after being mistreated, customers will forgive everything if only the company does the right thing in the future. It’s the same way an angry customer will fire off a support email rant but then become an advocate for the company if the company responds quickly and honestly.

Thank you, Apple. “Lifting the NDA”:http://developer.apple.com/iphone/program/ has turned the whole developer community into optimists overnight.

MacBook Air and Europe trip

The MacBook Air is the first Apple product to come along in years that I don’t want to buy. It looks great, the multi-touch trackpad is cool and unexpected, and I like Remote Disk. But it’s just not significantly different than a MacBook to me, and I don’t travel enough to make the thinness or weight really matter. To “upgrade” from a regular MacBook to an Air just seems wasteful.

The “new Apple” has been doing a great job of eliminating duplicates in their product line (only one tower, only one of each size of iPod). If the Air had an 11-inch or 12-inch screen it would be a much easier sell because it becomes clear why the product exists: buy this if you want something small.

For two months in 1999, my wife and I travelled through Europe with only a backpack each and a PowerBook 520c to share between us. That machine was very small (just a 9.5-inch screen), yet she did contract work for Apple on it and I coded and released new versions of Mac software, dialed up to the net via modem from hotel rooms and hostels in the days before wi-fi. It was much heavier than an Air but for traveling light it was still a great choice.

It feels like Apple missed an opportunity at Macworld yesterday. I’m not particularly disappointed, though, since I wasn’t one of those hoping for a sub-notebook.

Give us a tablet already

I’m going to skip the usual Macworld predictions and cut straight to the good stuff: Apple needs a tablet for the huge numbers of artists and creative professionals who have stuck with the Mac for so long, or who are finally coming back to the platform. I hope for this every year, but the evidence is starting to mount that yes, Apple is working on something.

John Gruber doesn’t see a tablet happening:

“But why force software UI’s designed for traditional hardware form factors upon a totally different device? A successful tablet-like device from Apple, I think, would clearly be designed as a secondary computing device — a satellite attached and synched to a Mac or PC (probably, of course, through iTunes).”

I think his reasoning is exactly correct if you think about a tablet as just a Newton or large iPhone, but as I say above I don’t think that’s the market at all. Honestly as much as I loved the Newton, the iPhone works great as a replacement. The primary market for a Mac tablet is the millions of people who look at the Wacom Cintiq and drool. An Apple tablet has to run full Mac OS X because it has to run Photoshop, Acorn, and Painter.

(Both Gruber and Dan Benjamin also discuss predictions during the latest The Talk Show episode, just posted. While you’re listening, also check out the Hivelogic comprehensive podcasting guide.)

So what about this: what if the MacBook sub-notebook and the tablet are one and the same? Imagine a beautiful slim MacBook with a detachable keyboard and touch-sensitive display, for example. Avoid the weird connections by making the keyboard Bluetooth only, with all the guts of the machine (including flash-based hard drive) behind the screen. I have a first-generation Toshiba Tablet PC and the hardware design is just bulky and terrible because they tried to make it all things to all people. A MacBook Nano-Tablet-Air could embrace “thin” and “tablet” and ignore everything else to achieve a truly great design.

But who knows. We’ll see in about 30 minutes.

iPhone – it’s from the future

That’s the way I described the iPhone to anyone I showed it off to over the weekend. The thing is amazing. Easily the most advanced and beautiful UI that we have ever seen on a portable device.

I waited outside the Apple Store most of Friday to get an iPhone, and it contrasted very favorable with “my experience camping out for the Wii”:http://www.manton.org/2006/11/nintendo_wii_purchase.html. The 6pm sale time decision was a smart one. It turns out waiting in line all day wasn’t necessary, but for anyone who had to have one on day 1 it was the safest choice, and it makes for a fun community. I ran into a bunch of people I knew and met new folks as well. Enjoyed catching up with “Donna Kidwell”:http://www.gamermom.com/ and had a chance to chat at length with Jeremy Derr of “Barton Springs Software”:http://www.bssware.com/.

“Damon YouTubed the line”:http://damonclinkscales.com/past/iphone-line-at-the-apple-store-the-domain/ in the early afternoon and by 6pm the line was roughly 250 people. We were in the low 40s and were in and out of the Apple Store in 15 minutes. They ran a great launch. Also a nice assortment of free water, tea, pizza, and coffee from both Apple and surrounding businesses. “Here’s a shot of me”:http://flickr.com/photos/digitalnomad/697023122/ from Damon’s Flickr stream.

iPhone line

Here are my posts to Twitter throughout the day, which also show part of the story:

6:34am: Good morning iPhone Day! Weather forecast in Austin for today: 40% chance of showers and storms.

10:15am: It’s only 10am but already realized I need to go to Plan B. Bribe friends already in line to use their 2nd iPhone purchase.

11:09am: Change of plans. Heading to the Apple Store now to join in the line-waiting fun. Will it be too late?”

12:26pm: I expected rain, but that seems unlikely. It’s hot like a real Austin summer here in the iPhone line.

2:32pm: Hanging out in The Line with Jeremy of Barton Springs Software and @damon. Apple Store is closed. Had some lunch and a Starbucks soy latte.

4:03pm: 2 hours left. We can redeem our free Starbucks coffee coupons now. Excited! (About the iPhone. Not the coffee.)

6:30pm: Got my iPhone.

7:35pm: Activation will have to wait. Ratatouille.

8:18pm: Movies all sold out. Pre-activation dinner at Kerby Lane instead.

9:53pm: Activation took less than a minute. Also, no plan choice. Just $20 added on to what I already pay, I guess.

Other reviews around the web:

“Matt Haughey”:http://a.wholelottanothing.org/2007/07/01/24-hours-with-the-iphone-my-dream-mini-computer/: “So in conclusion, the iPhone is nice from start to finish, but Safari is really the thing that turns it from a phone into a mini-laptop. Once I get more used to two-thumb typing, the last limitations that keep it from feeling like a real computer will be gone.”

“Scott Stevenson”:http://theocacao.com/document.page/488: “I usually don’t get too into pop culture events, but this is different. The Mac is going mainstream in a big way.”

“Ryan Irelan”:http://www.ryanirelan.com/past/2007/07/01/apple-iphone-brilliant-device-horrendous-activation/: “I probably tried out the emergency call slider three dozen times. I wonder if anyone actually called 911 because their phone wasn’t activating quickly enough.”

“Steven Frank”:http://stevenf.com/2007/07/the_official_stevenf_iphone_review.php: “Best phone ever. And given the rest of the industry’s generally pervasive cluelessness about pretty much everything, I don’t expect it to be surpassed by anything until the iPhone 2.”

“John Gruber”:http://daringfireball.net/2007/06/iphone_first_impressions: “Overall day one impression: the iPhone is 95 percent amazing, 5 percent maddening. I’m just blown away by how nice it is – very thoughtful UI design and outstanding engineering.”

Wii Transfer 2.0 featured on Apple Downloads

I finished “Wii Transfer 2.0”:http://www.riverfold.com/software/wiitransfer/ late Thursday night. This version is an interesting milestone for the application because it goes beyond just using the SD card to shuttle data back and forth between your Mac and Wii. There is a small Cocoa web server embedded inside Wii Transfer that can serve up MP3s and JPEGs directly to the Wii using the Internet Channel. I think this could be the basis for some really fun stuff in the future.

One of the things I added at the last minute is to try to simplify how you connect to your Mac from the Wii. IP addresses are difficult to memorize for most people and may change depending on how your home network is setup. To solve this, Wii Transfer will optionally create a permanent URL for you on bookmark.riverfold.com. You can then add that URL as a favorite for your Wii and it will always redirect to your local machine. Wii Transfer will ping the Riverfold server on startup and update the bookmark database with your current IP address. You can think of it as a simplified version of “Dynamic DNS”:http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Dynamic_DNS.

I just noticed that Wii Transfer is the featured download and staff pick in the “video section of Apple’s download site”:http://www.apple.com/downloads/macosx/video/. That is a nice surprise. It will be interesting to see what that does to download stats.

One last thing. Starting next month the price will go up to $14 for version 2.0 (free upgrade for all existing users). I usually work on Wii Transfer at night, so the increase will help offset all the sleep I lost. :-) Even at $14 it may be underpriced. Remember the “Brent Simmons rule”:http://www.red-sweater.com/blog/168/the-price-is-wrong: anything less than $20 won’t be taken seriously. In this case though I think it’s just about right. I’m also finding a large percentage of purchases from Europe, despite no localization, probably because the US dollar is so weak now. Enjoy!

Falling in love with VoodooPad again

A few years ago I used “VoodooPad Lite”:http://www.flyingmeat.com/voodoopad/ extensively. Every note, to-do list, and feature description went into it. At some point I migrated away from VoodooPad to a combination of text files and “Ta-da list”:http://www.tadalist.com/, perhaps fearing I would have too much data in a weird format that would be difficult to get at later.

But I was always on the lookout for a problem that would best be solved with VoodooPad again. With our localized help files for “Bookshelf 4.1”:http://www.vitalsource.com/, I tried for most of a day to use VoodooPad to manage the help. I even experimented with Gus’s dead “project for remote wiki editing”:http://www.flyingmeat.com/fs/flystashweb.cgi?space=3ec82d22-c72a-01d9-1639-c0cbe4c4c32b, thinking I would write my own web-based help-specific wiki system and plug “Boomerang”:http://www.flyingmeat.com/fs/flystashweb.cgi/348c223e-0512-01da-1c41-c0cbe4c4fc75 into it. In the end it was too difficult to force the existing static help files into VoodooPad.

Fast-forward to a few nights ago. “Wii Transfer”:http://www.riverfold.com/software/wiitransfer/ 1.5 has no Apple Help at all, and it needs some. A perfect opportunity for VoodooPad, and I’m happy to report that the solution works beautifully. I knew I could make it work because clearly VoodooPad’s own help files are managed with VoodooPad. After a bit of experimentation I bought a new VoodooPad license and all was well in the world.

Here’s how it works:

  • I manage the help content in VoodooPad, creating pages for different help sections and generally just typing away and getting stuff done.

  • The HTML export template lives inside the VoodooPad document itself, so everything is in one place.

  • Also inside the VoodooPad document is a post-processing script (written in Ruby) that looks for a comment in index.html and inserts the appropriate AppleTitle and AppleIcon meta tags that Apple Help needs to get its work done.

The only part I haven’t finished yet is that the script should also send the files off to Help Indexer to update the search index. I coded that part but it doesn’t work yet — there is something different about how VoodooPad executes these scripts that prevents other applications from launching. (Maybe. I’ll sort it out eventually.)

You can “watch a screencast of the process here”:http://www.manton.org/screencasts/2007/voodoopad.mov. I add a new page, enter some filler text, export the VoodooPad document, then re-run the Xcode project and view the changes in Apple Help. Fun!

WWDC 2006 coming up

“John Siracusa rants a bit”:http://arstechnica.com/staff/fatbits.ars/2006/7/21/4727 about the lack of access to WWDC for non-attendees. I agree that the session DVDs, sample code, and other resources should be made available to everyone. But there is so much to the conference that can’t be bottled up for later.

I have been extremely lucky to have been able to attend WWDC for each of the last 5 years with “VitalSource”:http://www.vitalsource.com/, and a few years off and on before that. I think my first WWDC was 1996, which also makes next week my 10th anniversary of attending.

1996 was “Copland”:http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Copland, the middle of the dark years for Apple. It was strange to be a Mac developer back then, to stay optimistic in the face of a barrage of bad press. I think it helped that I was “part of a small team”:http://www.purity.com/ that was passionate about this stuff. We couldn’t imagine building Windows software, although we did dabble in BeOS pretty extensively.

So, on to my hopes for this year. First, I have no idea what will be in Leopard. Like many people, I hope for some Finder improvements and an effort to bring the fragmented window and control types back together. I also assume that Leopard will have nice new features, and that those features will have developer APIs to go along with them.

Second, for the last couple of years I’ve believed that a Mac tablet is forthcoming. Tiger introduced two core pieces to this: handwriting recognition and portrait mode. “Patent rumors”:http://www.macsimumnews.com/index.php/archive/buzz_apples_new_accelerometer_patent_reveals_a_stunning_tablet_pc/ continue to hint at such a device. Judging by how many designers and animators have embraced the Windows-based Tablet PCs (for which the hardware mostly still sucks), I think an Apple-designed tablet could be extremely popular. This is the only piece of hardware I would literally buy on day 1.

Going to WWDC? Say “hi” if you see someone who “looks like this”:http://www.manton.org/me/293.jpg.

Disney buys Pixar

It was made official today. The rumor only surfaced a week ago, but in that time many people have gone from surprise and skepticism to hope that maybe it could be great for both companies. For Pixar, it might mean more creative control over their characters and sequels, plus not having to worry about distribution or settling for a partner without the reach into merchandising and vacation spots that Disney has. Interestingly, John Lasseter will also advise on new theme park attractions.

In the old days under Walt, it was common for artists to move between short films, features, and Disneyland design. Walt had a knack for seeing the best skills in people and using them wherever they could be most effective. He also had an instinct for story, a relentless pursuit of quality, and of what people would want to see, or how to sell it. Steve Jobs shares more than a few of these qualities, even if his management style at Pixar has been to delegate more than micromanage. Could Jobs pull another NeXT and infuse Disney with Pixar management and culture, or will he be content to sit on the board and coordinate deals with Apple for video content? Who knows.

For Disney, the benefits of the deal are pretty obvious, since all of the Pixar films have been huge money-makers. What’s less clear is what will happen to all the films currently in production at Disney. We have to assume they will continue mostly unchanged. Disney had a rough and controversial transition to 3d, with many layoffs and studio closures, but they did make the transition and this deal will probably upset that just a little.

There is also still that dream that with a leader (Lasseter) who appreciates traditional 2d animation, Disney might even buy back some of those old animation desks and give 2d another try. Although some of the great directors of the 2nd golden age at Disney have left (such as Ron Clements and John Musker of The Little Mermaid and Aladdin), Disney still has many 2d-trained directors, and now so does Pixar (Brad Bird), with enough 2d fans throughout both companies to form another studio branch entirely.

I read a bunch of weblogs by artists at Disney and Pixar now, so hopefully their views will start to trickle in too. Good luck to everyone at both studios.