Pixel Envy

Written by Nick Heer.

Archive for February, 2012

Why a New iOS Home Screen is a Big Deal

Shawn Blanc:

A new iOS Home screen is Apple’s chance to get the “front-door interface” right. When they change the Home screen it’s going to be a big deal, and it will become a core part of iOS for the next decade. […]

Put another way: I don’t see Apple just stealing ideas from Android and Windows Phone and implementing “live widgets” onto the iOS Home screen. When they update the Home screen they’ll have skated to where the puck is going to be.

I agree completely. The current iOS Home screen simply doesn’t work for the myriad of functions Apple has since grafted onto it. I don’t have any ideas on how they’ll change it, and I’m not convinced it’s slated for the next major version of iOS (or even the version after that). However, it will change, and it’ll be in a big way.

What’s the Waiter Doing With the Computer Screen?

Richard Gatarski, quoting a maître d’hôtel:

You can check off a reservation in the system, with the mouse, but hey, it’s at least four clicks away from this screen. And you can’t tell if the guests have been showed to their table or are waiting in the bar. So it’s much easier just to draw on the screen [with a whiteboard pen]. (And when the evening is over you just wipe the screen with a cloth.)

A real-world example of where it becomes clear nobody has actually tested the user interface.

TV Is Broken

Patrick Rhone explains television to his four year-old daughter:

“Can I choose?”, Beatrix asks. She’s still confused. She thinks this is like home where one can choose from a selection of things to watch. A well organized list of suggestions and options with clear box cover shots of all of her favorites. I have to explain again that it does not work that way on television. That we have to watch whatever is on and, if there is nothing you want to watch that is on then you just have to turn it off.

An astoundingly simple reflection on why television is so poor, and so unlike what we expect. It is a relic of when we had little choice, and since that has changed, media companies are struggling to catch up.

Google’s New “Batshit Crazy” UX

Dustin Curtis, quoting ex-Google designer Kevin Fox:

The new Gmail and Google+ ‘clicking on the logo does nothing’ behavior seems just absurd. […] As long as there is a property logo on your page, clicking on that logo should take you to the top level of that property

He compares this odd behaviour to Twitter’s December redesign:

[A] tweet’s timestamp is no longer a link to that tweet’s page. Instead, clicking the date contracts the mini-information expansion. There is now a dedicated “details” link which is camouflaged in color, size, and location, as metadata.

This is something that I also pointed out when Twitter rolled out this redesign. The date is always assumed to be a permalink, at least in internet parlance, and Twitter breaks that convention for no good reason.

Ubuntu for Android

This is certainly an intriguing possibility. Imagine being able to remove your phone from your pocket, and plug it into a computer, whereupon you have your entire setup ready to go. Canonical, the guys behind Ubuntu, want to make that a possibility. Based on Jamie Keene’s hands-on, I’d say it’s a great start. However, I’d obviously prefer OS X to Ubuntu.

Gruber thinks that this is the antithesis of cloud storage, but I see it as complementary. Imagine if your iPhone had an OS X partition which would automatically launch when docked. It could contain the applications and preferences, but the documents and files would be provided by iCloud. I think that’s a distinct possibility.

Google to Sell Heads-Up Display Glasses

Nick Bilton:

People who constantly reach into a pocket to check a smartphone for bits of information will soon have another option: a pair of Google-made glasses that will be able to stream information to the wearer’s eyeballs in real time.

According to several Google employees familiar with the project who asked not to be named, the glasses will go on sale to the public by the end of the year. These people said they are expected “to cost around the price of current smartphones,” or $250 to $600.

Seems like a lot to pay to look like a dork.

Every Product is a Killer Product

AAPL is up today by nearly $13. It’s yet another day of steady, solid growth as reflected by their shareholders. They didn’t launch a product today, nor win one of their many lawsuits. It’s just a Tuesday. That’s Apple’s corporate strategy in a nut.

Apple’s competitors see things a little differently. Google, for instance, doesn’t sell products. Rather, they’re an advertising company that uses products and services as advertisement vehicles, much in the same way radio stations have worked for decades. Where Google differs is in the targeting of ads. Radio stations follow a particular format, listened to by a particular demographic. Advertisers can guess at what those listeners might be interested in. Google builds up a silo of data gleaned from your email, web searches, friends on Google+, and videos watched on YouTube. A giant heap of personal information that allows Google to provide services for free which are, for the most part, decent.

Microsoft’s revenue is mostly generated through licensing their software. Around 25% of their revenue comes from hardware sales, which is not insignificant, but cowers in the shadow of Windows and Office. Since Microsoft doesn’t sell computers or phones, the majority of their revenue must come from licensing. Direct sales of their software are always going to be dwarfed by sales to equipment manufacturers.

By contrast, Apple’s business model is simple: make products and sell them. There’s no need for ads in web services because one needs to have an Apple product to make real use out of iCloud. There are no licensing shenanigans to worry about because Apple designs the whole product as a unit. That means customers will receive the same stellar experience no matter what iPhone they buy, rather than the disparate platforms one has to contend with in the Android and Windows Phone families.

Apple’s business strategy is not reliant upon a killer product, like some magic bullet. Every product is a killer product which is improved over time as new features are demanded by consumers. The iPhone and the iPad are both lines of products that have significantly contributed to Apple’s bottom line, but they are in a long line of killer products introduced since 1997. And that’s the big secret: a long period of steady improvement and steady growth, with great products as the backbone.

He Said, She Said

Earlier today, The Daily produced a photo of what it says is Office for the iPad. Microsoft immediately denied it in a statement to Mary Jo Foley, saying that what was pictured was not their software. The Daily has now countered with another photo of the icon on the home screen of an iPad, along with a tweet from Peter Ha:

[W]e did not fabricate either image. A working version of the app was demoed to us by someone at Microsoft.

How the BlackBerry CEOs Lost an Empire

Jesse Hicks:

By the end of 2011, RIM stock had lost nearly 75 percent of its value. It hit a seven-year low, even dipping below book value, or the total value of the company’s assets. RIM, the market was saying, would be worth more sold for scrap – buildings, patents, unsold PlayBooks – than it was as a functioning company.

A fascinating, well-researched look into the fall of RIM.

ABC’s Nightline Visits Foxconn

It’s hard to assess these stories due to their unique access, the way they’re researched, and incongruities with other stories. However, I think Bill Weir has a good report on what happens at the Foxconn factories.

For a start, he’s quite clear that Foxconn is huge and manufactures products for a large number of companies:

“We call it the ‘Nike moment’ in the industry,” audit inspector Ines Kaempfer adds. “There was a moment for Nike in the ’90s, when they got a lot of publicity, negative publicity. And they weren’t the worst. It’s probably like Apple. They’re not necessarily the worst, it’s just that the publicity is starting to build up. And there was just this moment when they just started to do something about it. And I think that’s what happened for Apple.”

Smart observation. The criticism targeted at Apple is largely due to their high public visibility, and not because they’re worse than other companies. In fact, they’re probably one of the best in the industry, but that’s not saying a lot in the world of electronics factories.

There’s a quote right at the end that touched me. I recommend you read the whole article, of course, but this was particularly excellent:

In the meantime, Zhou Xiao Ying carves another aluminium Apple into the back of another iPad casing, lets her mind wander to her two sons and whether they can ever afford to live in the same city.

I pull out my own iPad to show her a few pictures of my kid and America and her eyes light up when she touches the screen to swipe another photo into view. She’s never seen a working iPad up close before.

“For all the people in America who buy one of these, what do you want them to know about you?” I ask.

“I want them to know me,” she says. “I want them to know we put a lot of effort in this product so when they use this please use it with care.”

We will likely never know the faces behind the assembly of our products. Let’s stop taking them for granted, though.

“They May Be On To Something Here”

A user by the name of fracai on Reddit:

It took around 2.5 years to hit 10 billion. 6 months to add 5 more billion. And now it’s been another 6 months to add another 10 billion.

They may be on to something here.

Oh, It Is On

Hey, remember when Apple was told to stop selling the 3G iPad 2, iPhone 4 and iPhone 3GS in Germany? Apple convinced the court to delay that ruling because they said Motorola violated EU FRAND patent rules. Anyway, they’ve just come out swinging their big bat from their cojones. Florian Mueller quotes from Motorola’s SEC report:

On February 17, 2012, the Company received a letter from the European Commission, Competition Directorate-General, (the ‘Commission’) notifying it that the Commission has received a complaint against Motorola Mobility, Inc. (‘MMI’) by Apple, Inc. (‘Apple’) regarding the enforcement of MMI’s standards-essential patents against Apple allegedly in breach of MMI’s FRAND commitments. Apple’s complaint seeks the Commission’s intervention with respect to standards-essential patents.

Good analysis by Mueller. This patent funny-business needs to stop, but as long as the laws stay the same, we’ll be seeing litigation from every company with a dog in the fight.

The Real Missed Opportunity

Paul Miller has a suggestion for the new Windows logo which I think is great. I suggested either the Windows Store logo, or a revised 1985 Windows logo, but Miller’s idea is a wise third contender.

With that many great choices, nobody at Pentagram should be picking anything. Imagine if they were a travel bureau: “you could go to the Bahamas, or France, but we’ve set you up in a cozy place in Tajikistan.”

Mac OS X Mountain Lion vs. Real Mountain Lion

Notification Center shows on-screen pop-ups every time you receive an email, instant message, friend request, calendar alert, etc.

Mountain lions will not notify you before they pop-up and eat your face.

It’s Friday, and you need something funny.

Confirmed: iPad 3 Has a 2048×1536 Retina Display

There is a twofold improvement here. The first, obviously, is with the high resolution display. The second, improvement comes from the lamination process they will presumably use to place this panel under the glass. It’s going to look like a live magazine.