Saturday, April 18, 2009
Wednesday, March 18, 2009
Seems like everyone forgets Apple is still a baby in the SmartPhone market. It's easy to argue they should have done this all quicker but it's only been 2 years. In software development you can either hire a ton of people and use the thousand monkeys model of development or you can build up a smaller team and just give them the time to get it right. Since iPhone sales weren't hurting at all I think Apple saw no problem letting the core iPhone software team take their time.
I would speculate that Apple probably spent about 12-14 months exclusively working on the SDK after the launch of the 1.0 firmware 2 years ago. That includes improvements to the core OS infrastructure and optimizing the various APIs for a mobile device with limited memory and clock cycles -- and of course battery constraints. All of the API work had to be done right the first time. It had to be consistent and it had to be forward thinking enough to ensure there was room for the platform to grow over the years. Apple doesn't want to make a tiny change in a core library and break 10,000 apps. They don't want to have a dozen different APIs that do basically the same thing and bloat up the OS just to provide backwards compatibility. This is a good thing and it's the same principals that have made OSX a great platform on the desktop side.
And let's be honest. The competition hasn't exactly been pushing out a lot of innovative updates. RIM & Microsoft are still struggling to catch up to most of the iPhone 1.0 features and usability. Android doesn't really seem to have much momentum at the moment. Looks like Google might already be losing interest in it. Not a good sign.
Arguably with all these iPhone competitors out there making slow, but steady, progress the SDK and third party application library are Apple's main competitive advantage. They had to put their priorities in order and make sure the SDK was bullet proof and good enough to attract developers -- and basically lock them into the iPhone platform for years to come. Some of these other features, C&P, A2DP, etc were simply not going to give the iPhone a dominant advantage in the same way the SDK has. Apple understood that and they will benefit from it even if users want to belly ache over waiting 2 years for C&P. You still bought it, didn't you? Point proven.
Tuesday, March 17, 2009
Friday, March 13, 2009
Is it maybe a ploy to distract us from talking about the important things? A huge increase in science spending. A huge increase in funding for alternative energy programs. Huge infrastructure (road & bridge) repair projects. Spending for health care to keep people alive. If you're dead you don't care about the 2% of ear marks that were or were not cut from a federal budget. (such projects including side walk construction in a school district) Real reform to decrease pollution via cap & trade. Major changes in Iraq & Afghanistan.
Thursday, March 12, 2009
Based on loose speculation of a Apple TV update sometime in the near future:
New Home Screen: It should mimic the iPhone OS home screen. Icons for individual tasks on one page with a row of favorites on the bottom. Less nested menu navigation. (old, ugly, inefficient UI design) Should be easily navigable using the basic Apple Remote and giving icons a glow effect on selection. I envision a status bar along the top showing wifi signal strength, time, and notifications.
Home Screen Icons:
iTunes Store --> Renting/buying content.
Apple Remote --> Streaming content off local network via iTunes
You'd also have the other apps, YouTube, Photos, Settings, etc.
Safari: This would largely depend on implementation of the Wii style motion control patent that has been floating around. D-Pad style navigation with the Apple Remote simply wouldn't be usable. Should also support iTunes/MM syncing of bookmarks to avoid having to type URLs in. (Keychains too, on the Mac side at least)
Simple games (remember the motion controller patent?)
Streaming front ends to various services. Probably going to need Flash too. (not a big problem if we stay x86)
Interactive video apps. Kind of a choose your own story sort of thing.
Fantasy sports managers
Lots of stuff no one has ever thought of.
I would imagine the SDK would be fairly similar to the iPhone SDK although obviously targeting a different screen resolution. Being as the iPhone SDK is heavily abstracted from hardware porting apps shouldn't be too difficult. The biggest challenge would be scaling up to a higher resolution display for games -- however the Wii proves you don't really need good graphics to be successful in the gaming industry. Might not be too bad. An important part of this SDK would be promoting iPhone/ATV integration. For example, a Netflix app might allow you to watch a movie onscreen while you browse their catalog on the iPhone and start a new movie or que something. An RPG game might use the iPhone display for an inventory screen. The similarity in APIs would allow developers to write applications that did not depend on the iPhone as an accessory -- simply moving those controls to the AppleTV output. (kinda wonky but it could be made to work)
The obvious question is why would Apple allow competing services onto their hardware? They simply don't have a dominate position in online video -- no streaming presence at all. Unlike the music industry, where they got in early and dominated, they will have to settle with being a platform for other video services. The Apple TV could become one of the first devices that allows various services to pool together in one place. Would you pay $9.99 for the Netflix app? Probably. Would Apple like 30% of it? Yes. Even if it is a one time sale. (better than nothing from Apple's perspective)
Most likely something ATOM based. It's got the best mix of price/performence right now and a pretty good supporting chipset/GPU. (well, good enough for our purposes) I had speculated it might be something NVIDIA/ARM based but it's hard to beat the ATOMs price/performence ratio at this point. OSX is very platform independent so it shouldn't be a major issue targeting ARM and x86 for developers. Obviously the SDKs will have some major differences to deal with no matter what.
Saturday, February 28, 2009
I dig the Top Sites feature. I arranged each row (more or less) for a different class of site, blog, news, forum, work, etc. Hopefully in the future the thunbnails will update more often and will authenticate on sites automatically to get a proper thumbnail.
Thursday, January 29, 2009
The UI for the native blogger interface is pretty awful. Trying this thing called Blogo. It's alright. Not sure why anyone would spend $25 on it though.
It does have a full screen mode though which is a nice touch. I prefer to write undistracted.
Wednesday, January 28, 2009
Friday, January 9, 2009
Managing this type of mess on a taskbar is nearly impossible. I've tried. It drives me insane. The lack of Expose doesn't help but that's another issue entirely. (the screenshot cuts off my second 20" display which is also full of windows) The Dock works by saving space combining launching & running tasks and always combining all associated windows of an application together. The bouncing Dock notification is also very useful as extra information can be included in the Dock page (such as transfer speed, unread message count, etc)
Saturday, January 3, 2009
iPhone: Probably nothing major on firmware. That's more of a WWDC thing. iPhone Nano, definitely this year but maybe not at MacWorld which has traditionally been a computer oriented product launch/refresh expo.
iWork/iLife Updates, hopefully iPhone & web compatible versions. They'd have an opportunity to land on a lot of Windows desktops with a good mobile version of iWork. The iPhone integration might come in the form of an iMovie app that can do basic video recording, editing and publishing. Perhaps some GarageBand instrument & remote controller stuff.
Desktops: I think this is where the biggest announcements will be made. It's the one area in Apple's product line that is seriously lacking.
New Mini: NVIDIA chipset. Probably not much cheaper but a better value at least. Maybe a little wider and taller.
Mac: Cheaper i7 based mid-range tower. Cheaper, not necessarily cheap. Probably still $1k+ or even $1500+
iMac: NVIDIA chipset.
New mice/keyboards: Anytime Apple refreshes desktops them seem to do new keyboards/mice to match. Probably a black key version of the aluminum keyboards and a new mouse -- maybe also aluminum. Perhaps with multi-touch. (basically a rounded/molded thermal sensor integrated into the front of the mouse)
Snow Leopard: Probably won't ship till April or May but there will probably be some new features announced. They may be focusing on core OS improvements but I'm sure there are some user oriented features we haven't seen yet.
Apple TV: Big changes but maybe nothing at WWDC.
1) Platform change to NVIDIA's ARM CPU.
2) It will run off the same code base as the iPhone OS with one common code base but some big GUI changes:
- The current Apple TV GUI becomes the iPod app
- The system boots up to an iPhone style home screen
- Core apps like Safari, Mail, iTunes Store, Google Maps, etc get moved over with some UI changes also.
Sunday, December 28, 2008
Saturday, December 27, 2008
Anyway I can't really review a movie in detail so I won't bother trying. All I can say is the acting, direction, screenplay -- everything is fantastic. The pacing of the movie really stood out to me. Nothing feels too rushed or simplified. Everything seems to play out in some scale model of real time. It's a film that takes its time when it needs to but moves the story forward also. I'm interested in watching it again already which is a rarity. Usually I don't need to see even a good movie more than once every 4 or 5 years. It would be very interesting to que up the Motorcycle Diaries before watching Part One. I haven't seen it in many years but I seem to remember it being an excellent film also.
When I do play games I tend to like something quick & simple. It seems contradictory based on my critique of modern games as not being interesting enough but a straight forward puzzle game or shooter at least has nothing to be ashamed of. It is what it is. You can't have a bad story and bad voice acting if you don't bother to fake either. There's a lot to be said for accessibility & brevity in entertainment. I'm an extremist -- either give me no-substance or give me more substance than I can take. The middle-ground is just too mediocre.
Anyway, the point of this entry is to look at why the Wii is so successful. Without any official numbers yet it looks like the Wii dominated x-mas sales. I consistently see people bitching about how this toy that doesn't even do HD can be dominating the 360/PS3. The important thing to remember is this is coming from people who absolutely despise the idea of a quick & fun game. They crave the 15 minute tutorial, memorizing & mastering a dozen button combos, memorizing & mastering points on a map, etc. They don't want 30 minutes of fun gameplay, they want 30 hours of gameplay. They'll figure out how to make it fun (somehow) It seems to me it's a hold over from the early days of video games where selection was more limited and games were expected to be longer, harder, and more of a grind. These people seem to have developed more of an enjoyment of the physical process of pressing buttons and sitting on a couch for 6 hour spans. The actual quality of the game itself is largely irrelevant to them. It simply has to satisfy some basic elements of traditional gameplay and offer a comforting and familiar experience.
The success of the Wii is purely based on the fact that most people don't feel this way. They don't have the time to spend 4 hours doing "missions" so they can get a new item and be rewarded with 4 more hours of "missions" It's simply a different mindset. I think it's possibly a generational thing -- not age per say but experience. Anyone who missed the period of gaming between the late 80's to late 90's has a different standard for what makes a game fun. Hardcore vs. casual perhaps -- although it's hard to say some Nintendo fanatics aren't hardcore. It's maybe more of a time management issue. It's no secret there is a serious lack of good third party software for the Wii but it seems to be irrelevant towards sales. Why? Because the average Wii owner probably only wants 2 or 3 games a year. If Nintendo can provide that directly the need for a healthy third party ecosystem is diminished. Unlike Sony & Microsoft, the Wii hardware itself is profitable. Nintendo is a very profitable software company independent of Wii hardware revenue. The average 360/PS3 owner are probably more interested in buying 10 games a year and it's unlikely either Sony or Microsoft could deliver enough games first-party to satisfy them. So the model for Sony & Microsoft is far more dependent on third parties.
So in the long term it's going to be interesting to see how sustainable the blockbuster & hardcore gamer market is versus the smaller, more accessible, casual game market. It seems the blockbuster game market is showing some signs of slowing down, or even collapsing entirely. While there are many high profile games that make a huge profit there are increasingly more and more very expensive games falling flat on their face. It's very similar to the movie industry where only known properties tend to be developed into blockbusters -- either remakes, sequels, or derivative works of literature & comic books. However there are many cheaper movies made that can turn a profit without being #1 at the box office or dominating DVD sales. They are able to do this by finding a very specific style or sub-genre and executing it very well.
So to wrap it up, there are 5 specific things the hardcore/blockbuster game market should do to become more relevant to the masses or, in time, they are going to become marginalized niche players:
1) Shorter, cheaper, more episodic content. (downloadable)
2) More exploration into less mainstream titles. Spend less to develop it, appeal to a smaller audience & sell less copies, but make more money in the end.
3) Stop puking out bad sequels or you'll destroy your cash cow. They have to show some restraint here. You can only go back to the well so many times.
4) Cheaper consoles. Subsidize it with a a subscription model if you must (xbox style) but the days of $400+ consoles has come and gone. You can only get away with that when you don't have any real competition.
5) Start moving away from buttons & joysticks. This model is 30 years old now. It still has some life left in it but the success of the Wii and games like Rockband/Guitar Hero show people are very interested in alternative control systems.
Monday, December 22, 2008
Just as the Shuffle isn't really an iPod in any classic sense I would expect any lower end iPhone model to not really be an iPhone in any classic sense. (no touchscreen, no app store, no wifi etc)
There's no practical way to cut the current cost of the iPhone 3G by $100. Reducing storage only saves you maybe $20. Reducing the size of the touchscreen makes a touch keyboard impossible and breaks existing apps. You simply couldn't use most app store apps on a screen even 70% as big as the current iPhone. (too small, not enough DPI for accurate input) Downgrading to EDGE saves you almost nothing. Downgrading the processor power is pointless. (breaks third party apps) So there is basically no way in hell Apple can reduce the current price of the iPhone in any significant way without producing a product that no one would want anyway.
So based on all that I would bet the iPhone Nano would be just what it says. A Nano with a phone built in. No bells & whistles. The UI would be engineering to have an iPhone look & feel but the device would probably continue to run either the classic iPod OS (vxworks I think?) or perhaps it would be the first iPod using Darwin but it would retain the simplicity of the iPod line and any connection to full blown iPhone/Touch OS would be purely cosmetic.
So why would Apple do it? Simple.. To offer an iPod AT&T can give away to people for free with a contract. (or a minimal fee) Apple got into the phone business knowing that phones would completely replace stand alone MP3 players someday. This is just the next logical step. They can ensure the iPod and iTunes Store stay relevant in a post-PMP, cell-centric world. It's interesting to note the new Nano is easily the most cell-phone looking iPod Apple has ever sold. It actually looks more like a cell phone than the iPhone does. Just add a mic & speaker, update the software, and you're all set. As long as Apple does 3 core things well it will satisfy a huge market:
1) Play music & video as well as existing iPod models (check)
2) Make phone calls as well as existing iPhones with a similar UI experience (pretty easy to pull off, check)
3) Be something you can walk out of an AT&T store with for $49 or $99 depending on storage. (check)
As an extra cost cutting measure I would expect there to be no requirement for a data plan.
Saturday, December 13, 2008
The Road by Cormac McCarthy: Fucking bleak stuff. I haven't read a book in a while that made me uncomfortable like this one did. The writing style is very engaging for this type of story. Very much a first person type of feel to me. Not much (if any) wasted time on information that's not important to the story. I'm a fan of these type of books in general. I'm suddenly motivated to re-read The Earth Abides which is another end-of-the-world-as-we-know-it type of story. Those two, plus Lucifer's Hammer by Larry Niven and probably The Stand by Stephen King are definitely the best of the genre.
Frost/Nixon: I liked it but I was definitely hung up over the actor who plays Nixon. It sounded like he was suppressing a British accent. Nixon, being such an iconic character, is pretty hard to pull off. I don't think anyone will be able to beat Hopkins at it. I totally bought him as Nixon 100%. Going back to Frost/Nixon, I think the actual raw footage of the interviews would be more interesting to me.
Milk: Pretty good but overrated. It's a solid political bio pic. Nothing more, nothing less. I did like how they mixed vintage footage into the film at various points. My biggest problem with this film would be how casual and rushed the murders are. I wanted to know more about that character and his motivations. I guess I'm probably bias against all bio pics because I'm constantly frustrated by the lack of detail and scope. Clearly these movies are intended to be a brief entertaining story but I'm naturally interested in getting the whole story.
My Name is Bruce: I'm a fan of Bruce Campbell so I downloaded it. Had a few funny lines. Definitely not what you'd call a good movie but I'm glad I downloaded it anyway.
Indiana Jones 4: I saw this with the aide of the wonderful RiffTrax project by Mike Nelson, Bill Corbin, and Kevin Murphy (among others) and I have to say -- this movie is just as cheesy as the previous 3. I'm not sure why people were so upset over it. Yeah it's campy, the story is forced and has huge logical holes, so what? Did you SEE the other 3? I feel the same way about the new Star Wars movies too. They're really no better or worse than the originals but everyone remembers the first time they saw Star Wars so they view it with equal parts nostalgia and fact. The truth is, they're not very good movies. Out of all 6 I'd say 3 & 5 are the only films I think stand out as being good movies.
New Star Trek movie: I have no problem with them rebooting the series for basically the same reasons listed above. The original wasn't that good. They can hardly do worse. My only problem with what I've seen from the trailer so far is they turned Kirk into an emo kid. A single blog post that covers both Star Wars & Star Trek? I don't know how to explain it. The winter kinda makes me crazy. Nothing to do. Hostile universe outside. I really try to spend the period between October & March catching up on entertainment stuff I didn't have time for over the previous year(s) At this very moment the idea of re-watching some Star Trek DS9 sounds appealing. Sad really.
Starship Titanic by Terry Jones: Somehow I never read this one even though I've owned a paperback of it for about a decade. Good book. It would make a fun movie if handled right.
Since it's freezing fucking cold and I have nothing better to do I think I might re-read the Dark Tower books this winter. It's an epic amount of material but luckily I've forgot most of the details now so I can enjoy it from a fresh perspective. I ended up listening to 5-7 in audio book form but I've never heard 1-4 in audio. The audiobook versions are amazing. Excellent voice acting. Really immersive stuff. I'm looking forward to hearing 1-4 in this format.
Tuesday, December 9, 2008
After the vicious never ending election cycle I always like to check out between election day and inauguration day. Fatigue becomes a factor. So far the transition seems to be going very well. It seems both extreme liberals and extreme conservatives are upset at Obama right now so we must be getting this thing just about perfect. Neither one of those groups has much business setting policy in this country anymore. I consider myself a liberal but the extreme left is just as dangerous and disgusting as the extreme right in most cases.
Clinton at State is obviously a good move. She knows how to play hardball. She proved in the general she was willing to be loyal to Obama and be a good solider. Since there was enough disagreement between Obama & Clinton on health policy I think it probably makes a lot of sense to keep her away from that business.
Keeping Gates on is a brilliant move. It's dangerous to replace a guy who has actually managed some level of success in Iraq with someone (anyone) who might be wanting to shake things up. We can't really just wash our hands of Iraq at this point. We're involved, the exit strategy has to work. The most important thing is we have a President elect who actually wants to leave. Gates can figure out the details.
I'm a big fan of Richardson so I'm happy to see he's on board. We've got the Democratic all-star team going here.
I wanted to see Kerry involved in this administration but we've got a lot of battles to fight in the Senate and we definitely need him there right now. His experience in actually getting laws pasted is going to be hugely helpful.
On the auto bail out: Pretty much gotta do it. We've bailed out other economies before (Mexico, Japan) and it worked out in the long run. We just can't lose all those jobs. I intensely dislike American cars so I have no interest in seeing the US auto industry continue to exist from a sentimental standpoint. I just think at this time we can't afford to see them go under. If we really push modern designs, electric, hybrid, hydro, etc we might even be able to see the US auto industry really rebound in the next decade. This deal could actually end up making the country some good money. The alternative is to print a fucking ton of unemployment checks and, eventually, welfare checks for all these people who lose their jobs. If we're going to be spending the money anyway I would rather see them stay at work and at least try to get the US auto industry back on track.
Message to RIM: Stick with what you do best. The iPhone has you guys beat. The BBOS is ancient. Your core customers are happy with the product you're offering. What are you really going to gain making all these lame iPhone like devices? Either do it right or don't do it at all. There's a huge market of people happy with traditional BBs. Don't under estimate their loyalty.
That is all.